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Brooklyn Mother Indicted On Murder Charges Says She Went to Beach to Hurt Herself, Not Kids

A memorial of toys, balloons, and candles left on the boardwalk to honor Zachary, Liliana, and Oliver. (Credit: Amanda Geduld)

A Brooklyn mother accused of murdering her three children was indicted Tuesday in Kings County Criminal Court. 

Erin Merdy, 30, is accused of drowning her children, aged between 3 months and 7 years,  in the early hours of Monday Sept. 12 on the beaches of Coney Island. 

The most serious of the charges is first-degree murder, which carries a potential sentence of 30 years to life. 

According to the police report, Merdy told an officer that following a phone argument with her ex-husband, she walked from her apartment complex to the boardwalk with the intention of harming herself. She brought her children with her but, the report says, she claimed she did not intend to hurt them.

Three hours later, police found Merdy roaming the boardwalk, barefoot and wet.

Soon after, Zachary, 7, Liliana, 4, and Oliver, 3 months, were discovered by an officer on the shoreline. They were “unresponsive, wet and with sand on their bodies.” 

All three were pronounced dead at a local hospital. An autopsy ruled that the cause of death was homicide by drowning.

According to the police report, Merdy told police she remembers walking down to the boardwalk. She claims her next memory is waking up in a hospital bed. 

Merdy told an officer she had a dream in which “Liliana was in the water and Zachary went to help her.” In the purported dream, she held the baby, Oliver, in her arms as she swam to her older children, but the “waves were too big and she could not help them.” 

She cryptically shared with officers that before the incident she had written a letter to 3-month-old Oliver, which she had left with his father. 

According to court documents, Merdy admitted to an unnamed witness, “that she had hurt her children and that they are gone.”

The police report states that while being treated at NYU Langone, where she is being held for psychiatric observation, Merdy said, “the waves, the waves, I keep having a bad dreams [sic]… I was in the water and my boy was crying and trying to help. I couldn’t save him I know I was wet and I was trying to kill myself. I am having a bad dream.”

Merdy has a history of mental illness, and at the time of alleged murders was embroiled in a custody battle, as reported by The New York Times. She was also facing eviction, according to court documents.

Harry Falkner, one of Merdy’s neighbors, standing outside the apartment complex where they both live. (Credit: Amanda Geduld)

 

Harry Falkner, one of Merdy’s neighbors, observed her recent struggles.

“The girl had a lot of problems,” he said.She snapped. … It’s too much pressure on her. When you got pressure, don’t nobody know who’s gonna snap. Don’t nobody know who is walking around with problems in their heart or problems in their mind. And they don’t got nobody to help or to talk to them.”

He said he wishes Merdy had greater access to that help.

Merdy did not appear in court for the indictment, and her attorney declined to comment. 

She will continue to be held without bail as she awaits a date for the next hearing.

Written by

Amanda Geduld is a former public high school teacher and current Stabile Investigative Fellow at Columbia's Journalism School.