A Brooklyn mom who’s accused of drowning her three children was dealing with an eviction as well as custody battle and mental health issues leading up to their tragic death on Monday.
Erin Merdy, 30, of Coney Island, reportedly owed over $10,000 in back rent for her Neptune Avenue apartment where she lived with her children – 3-month-old Oliver, 4-year-old Liliana and 7-year-old Zachary – and was being threatened with eviction since January after the COVID-19 eviction moratorium was lifted, according to the New York Post.
Merdy had stopped paying her $1,531-a-month rent in July of last year, and had been served an eviction notice before the moratorium even expired, the Post reports citing court records.
Custody Battle, Eviction Loomed Large Over Distraught Mother Prior To Monday’s Tragedy, Family Says
Merdy’s uncle, Levy Stephen, also revealed his niece was in the midst of a custody dispute with Zachary’s father before Monday’s tragedy. Stephen said the boy’s father “had issues with the way she was raising” him after “going off of the grid.”
Erin Merdy drowned her 3 little children –
Mom told family she drowned her 3 children at Coney Island beach https://t.co/rVbKG3CHqa via @nypmetro pic.twitter.com/WfYpw7UKKk
— Stan Americana (@americana_stan) September 13, 2022
“He had issues with the way she was raising the child, from what I understand,” Levy said. “She kind of went off the grid after that, changed her numbers. She wasn’t on social media — at least not to the point that I could find her.”
Authorities say around 1 a.m. Monday, concerned relatives called police to report Merdy might be drunk and might have done something to harm her children. Several hours later, she was found by police appearing dazed walking barefoot on the Coney Island beach in a bathrobe.
Law enforcement sources told the Post that she had told relatives she “drowned all three kids” before cops arrived.
Her children’s bodies were pulled out of the water on the shoreline just three blocks away from their home, and were eventually pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.
Warning, graphic content below:
Holy shit… This is heartbreaking. A mother with a history of mental health issues is suspected of drowning her three young kids on Coney Island beach early Monday having confessed to family members that she murdered them. Erin Merdy’s children were found unresponsive around… pic.twitter.com/IB7NzRZ99A
— That Guy Shane (@ProfanityNewz) September 13, 2022
Family Of Mother Speaks Out On Her Mental Illness, Saying They “Knew She Was Struggling”
Now, her family is speaking out on the mental heath issues that came along with those other issues, with an aunt, Dine Stephen, saying she “knew she was struggling” and that the family “has a history of mental illness.”
“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,” the aunt said.
The aunt added that while she was “trying to find a way for her children… it was the mental issues that took over.”
“I just knew she was trying to find a way for her children, a way to get on her feet. … It was the mental issues that took over.”
Another uncle, Eddy Stephen, told the Post he was “speechless” when he heard from relatives that “Erin killed her three children.”
Her uncle said Merry “did a little crazy stuff,” but that it was “nothing that would lead to harming her children or herself.
“She did a little crazy stuff, but nothing that would lead to harming her children or herself,” Eddy told the outlet.
Uncles Say Young Mother Did “A Little Drinking,” Didn’t Seem Stable
When asked about Merdy’s substance use habits, Eddy said she “used to party here and there, do a little drinking,” but that he didn’t see any drug abuse “or see that she was really irresponsible.”
“She used to like to party here and there, do a little drinking, but I didn’t see any drug abuse or see that she was really irresponsible. It’s just tragic. I don’t know. She never gave us the sign that she would hurt her children. She loved her children.”
And another uncle, Jean Stephen, 64, told the Post that Merdy did not handle relationships well and didn’t seem to “have her life together” while adding she “didn’t seem stable.”
“I don’t think she could handle a relationship or anything like that. She didn’t seem like she was that kind of person. She didn’t seem like she was stable,” the relative said.
Mother Failed To Bring Son To Recent Custody Exchange, Pulled Child From Youth Football Team Prior To Deaths
A third uncle, Levy Stephen, shined a little more light on the timeline behind Merdy’s mental health troubles.
He said the two used to be in contact “all the time,” but that in 2015 or 2016, “she disappeared off the face of the earth.” Levy said that “now, (he’s) faulting himself” for not finding a way to get in touch with her, and wondered if he had if the tragedy would have been avoided.
“There was a time when Erin and I were in contact all the time, but in 2015, 2016, she disappeared off the Earth. I didn’t know how to get in touch with her,” Merdy’s uncle, Levy Stephen, told the Post.
“Now I’m faulting myself for that. She obviously needed help, and you can’t help but think, ‘Maybe I could have…’”
Law enforcement sources said that in July, Merdy had failed to bring her son to a custody exchange ahead of a six-week visit scheduled with the child’s father.
And in May, Merdy pulled the boy from his youth football team without any explanation, according to his coach Allen McFarland, who said “she appeared to be juggling a lot.”
McFarland broke the news of Zachary’s death to his former teammates at practice Monday night, the Post reports. In a final farewell, the young football players released balloons with Zachary’s jersey number 15 into the sky and yelled “Zachary, we love you.”