Mom accused of drowning 3 kids off Coney Island beach arraigned

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Friday, September 16, 2022
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Erin Merdy is charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts each of second-degree murder. Derick Waller reports.

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- The mother accused of drowning her three children off a Coney Island beach was arraigned on murder charges Friday from her hospital bed at NYU Langone, where she is receiving psychiatric attention.

Erin Merdy, 30, is charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts each of second-degree murder, both with depraved indifference to human life and murder with victim under 11 years old, in connection with the deaths of 7-year-old Zachery Merdy, 4-year-old Liliana Stephens-Merdy, and 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev.

According to the criminal complaint, Merdy was caught on surveillance camera walking toward the ocean with the children just before 1 a.m. Monday.

About two hours later, police observed a "barefoot and wet" Merdy on the boardwalk by the beach.

At about 4:20 a.m., police found Zachary Merdy and Liliana Stephens-Merdy "lying on the shoreline unresponsive, wet and with sand on their bodies."

Oliver Bondarev was found a minute later.

Merdy told a witness "that she had hurt her children and that they are gone," the complaint said.

Autopsies "determined that they died by drowning in the ocean and the cause of death was homicide."

Erin Merdy was ordered held without bail, and court was adjourned until September 20.

The arraignment came one day after dad Derrick Merdy, Zachery's father, spoke to Eyewitness News.

"He was my best friend," he said. "He was my best friend, the joy he used to give me was unmatched."

The 7-year-old played football and was the center of all laughs. His father lives in Virginia and had visitation rights to his son and was planning on fighting for custody this fall, but with that no longer an option, he's now holding on to all the memories.

"He loved cars, just a good kid overall," he said. "He had a YouTube channel. He liked to play games."

Allen McFarland coached the 7-year-old.

"It breaks me that you think that you're going with the safest person in the world," he said. "Your mother. The safest person you could be with in the world, your mom. And that can be your last walk. That is traumatizing on so many levels."

Erin Merdy has prior incidents of harassment and aggravated harassment that did not result in charges, but she has no prior arrests or a history of being emotionally disturbed.

Police say the actions appear to be premeditated and not something that occurred at the spur of a moment, and detectives are looking into her past and interviewing neighbors and relatives to determine what had transpired.

The Administration for Children's Services declined to discuss whether they should have been looking into Merdy before the children's deaths, and if the family slipped through the cracks.

"Our top priority is protecting the safety and well-being of all children in New York City. We are investigating this tragedy with the NYPD," an ACS spokesperson said.

Eyewitness News also learned that she had been served with an eviction notice, claiming rent had not been paid since sometime last year.

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