Mother Charged With Murder in Drowning Deaths of 3 Children in New York’s Coney Island

Mother Charged With Murder in Drowning Deaths of 3 Children in New York’s Coney Island
Police work along a stretch of beach at Coney Island which is now a crime scene after a mother is suspected of drowning her children in the ocean, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, on Sept. 12, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

A New York City mother of three, whose children were found drowned near a Coney Island boardwalk earlier this week, has been arrested on murder charges, officials have said.

Erin Merdy, 30, has been charged with three counts of intended murder and three counts of depraved indifference, a police official told The Epoch Times.

The bodies of her three children, Zachary Merdy, 7, Lilana Merdy, 4, and 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev, were found on Monday following an hour-long search by police. The search was prompted after a worried relative contacted officers and expressed concerns that the child’s mother could harm her children.

Police launched their search following the 911 call at around 1:40 a.m. They discovered Merdy on Coney Island’s boardwalk alongside family members but she was without her children. Police told The Washington Post that she was "barefoot, soaking wet, and uncommunicative" when she was discovered.

The bodies of her unconscious and unresponsive three children were later found around two miles from where she stood, near the waters on a quiet section of the beach off of Coney Island boardwalk shortly after 4:30 a.m.

They were taken to a nearby hospital where they were later pronounced dead.

Authorities detained Merdy on Monday. Police suspected she had drowned her children and she was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation. The city’s medical examiner’s office announced on Tuesday that the children's deaths had been ruled homicides and that the children died by drowning.
 The beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 8, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 8, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'She Was Struggling'

Relatives told the New York Post that Merdy had been struggling with mental health issues at the time of her children's drowning death but that they were unaware of how bad the issues were.

"I knew she was struggling in the sense she was trying to find her way through life. In this family, we do have a history of mental illness to varying degrees. A few of us have battled with bipolar disorder, but I didn’t know her mental struggles," Merdy’s aunt Dine Stephen told the publication.

"She did a little crazy stuff, but nothing that would lead to harming her children or herself," an uncle, Eddy Stephen, said.

Merdy’s mother, Jacqueline Scott, 56, told New York Daily News that her daughter “might have been going through postpartum depression" but said that she was a "loving mother."

However, Merdy’s estranged ex-husband, Derrick Merdy, a Navy veteran with whom she shared son Zachary, told The New York Times that the mother was often unreliable and would sometimes not show up when he came to pick up his son for visits.

He added that Zachary would often be unwashed, hungry, and lacking sufficient clothing during his visits, and claimed that his son had told him that his mother "makes me starve."

Merdy and her ex-husband were locked in a custody battle over Zachary at the time of his death. "I was trying to get my son. Now that’s not going to happen," an emotional Derrick said.

It was unclear when a lawyer would be appointed to represent Merdy, however, it is possible that her lawyer could ask a judge for a psychological investigation to ensure that the mother is mentally fit to stand trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.