The 30-year-old mother of three children found unresponsive on the Coney Island shoreline in Brooklyn has been arrested and charged in their deaths, a law enforcement official told CNN Wednesday.
Erin Merdy has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of depraved indifference to human life, and three counts of murder with the victims under 11 years old, the official said.
The children died by drowning early Monday and their deaths are considered homicides, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said.
Relatives called police after Merdy allegedly told them “the babies are gone” and “the kids are gone.” When questioned by detectives, Merdy told them she had been “dreaming of walking the kids in the water,” according to the law enforcement official.
Merdy was processed Wednesday and remains in a hospital for further psychological evaluation, the official said.
All three children were pronounced dead at a hospital after first responders conducted life-saving measures, including CPR, Chief of Department Kenneth Corey told reporters Monday.
Their mother was questioned by police and then hospitalized after they found her Monday morning in Brighton Beach, adjacent to Coney Island, a law enforcement official said.
The children were discovered after police got a 911 call at 1:40 a.m. Monday from someone who was concerned a “family member may have harmed her three small children,” Corey said. The caller asked police to check on the woman’s Coney Island apartment.
At the apartment a man who identified himself as the father of one of the children said he was also concerned, Corey added. The man told police he believed the woman and three children were at a boardwalk on Coney Island.
Officers canvassed beaches, streets and a local hospital. Then another 911 call came in directing officers to a specific location – Brighton 6th Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk in nearby Brighton Beach. The caller reported a woman who was despondent, according to police spokesperson.
Police found the woman and other family members with her. The children were not there.
The search continued via ground, air and harbor units. Around 4:42 a.m., officers found the children unconscious on the shoreline at West 35th Street in Coney Island, Corey said.
The location where the children were found is about 2 miles from where the woman was spotted – and just a half-mile south of her apartment.
She was “soaking wet” when investigators made contact with her, said Corey, who noted it was not clear whether she’d been in the rain or in the water off the coast.
The 7-year-old boy was a kind, generous person with a special humility about him, his father told CNN on Tuesday.
“Anybody who met my son they would know that he is special,” the father, Derrick Merdy, said.
He loved the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. “I think I spent so much money buying him every last one of them,” Merdy said.
The boy “had a humility about him that I can’t even imitate, and I’m going to try my best to live like he did because he was so kind and generous,” the father said.
“He was going to be great.”
Allen McFarland, a youth football coach and New York City Department of Education employee, remembered the 7-year-old as a quiet, expressive boy who was always excited to play football.
“He was excited to tackle, to be tackled, excited to run the ball, excited to hit the person with the ball, he was just excited,” said McFarland, recalling that the boy joined his team two years ago and wore number 15.
The coach had to break the news to the team on Monday and was met with tears from the kids, who were heartbroken.
McFarland said the boy’s mother pulled him out of football in March.
“You could see that there was a lot going on,” the coach said of the mother.
“She would say, ‘No, I know he likes it and we’re going to try to come back, but the schedule has just been busy,’” McFarland said. “It seemed like she was juggling a lot.”
A person who used to work at a shelter for domestic violence survivors said the two older children were “sweet.”
The 4-year-old girl liked to play with dolls, the former shelter worker told CNN. The boy was a superhero fan, said the person, who worked with those two children for six months in 2020 and 2021 – before the birth of the third child.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see. The children were always well-behaved and quiet. Beautiful souls. Mom was mostly quiet,” the former shelter employee said.
The person, who didn’t want to be identified publicly, said the mother did not associate with other residents but would occasionally participate in activities with the children.