Supervisor suspended over kids deaths

Cops: Leatrice Brewer confessed to murders
February 28, 2008 8:07:36 AM PST
A Long Island mother accused of murdering her three young children was arraigned this afternoon. The bodies of the two boys and girl were found inside their home in New Cassel last weekend.Nassau County officials want to know why the mother still had custody -- despite reports of neglect and abuse.

Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has the latest.

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi says the system failed somewhere.

Lt. Michael Fleming, commander of the Nassau homicide squad, said the mom called 911 shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, telling an operator "that she killed her babies. She even spelled her name to the 911 operator."

Police say the 27-year-old mother, Leatrice Brewer, admitted to murdering her three young children Sunday. The oldest, Jewel Ward, was just 6 years old. The middle child, Michael Demesyeux, was 5. And the baby, Innocent Demesyeux, only 1 year old.

Brewer is now charged with first-degree and second-degree murder for allegedly drowning each of her children and laying them out in her bed. She was arraigned in the hospital today. She pleaded not guilty.

Now, officials from numerous departments in Nassau County have been ordered by the county executive to provide information on all contact this family had with any county agencies.

Eyewitness News is told Social Services visited their New Cassel home at least six times, including twice on Friday, but no one was home, so a representative left a business card.

"I don't know if we'll ever know whether or not if we could have prevented this crime from happening," Suozzi said. "But I believe that the system has failed."

The supervisor scheduled a return visit on Sunday despite having staff available Saturday to follow up on the complaint, Suozzi said. That supervisor has since been suspended without pay.

Innocent Demesyeux, the father of the two boys, told reporters he had been battling Brewer for custody for more than a year, and Suozzi confirmed that the man had called authorities on Friday complaining that the woman might harm her children.

Suozzi said nine complaints about the 27-year-old mother were filed with the agency but only three of them were determined to be worthy of follow-up. In each of those cases, Brewer was referred to other agencies for treatment, but Suozzi said it is not clear what, if anything, happened after that.

He said a preliminary review found that circumstances never rose to the level where officials deemed it necessary to remove the children from Brewer's home.

During the arraignment, District Court Judge David Goodsell ordered Brewer held without bail pending her next court appearance, tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

County Legislator Roger Corbin, who represents the New Cassel community, said county officials should have acted to remove the children from the home.

"I really don't share the belief that you couldn't take the kids away," Corbin said.