As soon as I read it, I thought, there are many Negroes in Newburgh, it was probably a black woman who had done this, even though the most famous case of a woman drowning her children, though not herself, by driving her car into water was that of
, who was white, and another woman who drowned her children, all five of them, was
, also white. I clicked on the link and began reading the
, and by the second paragraph, from the name of the boy, it was clear that my guess had been correct.
Also notice how the action of this woman in killing her children and herself is repeatedly called a “tragedy,” not once is it called a murder or a murder/suicide. A society that constantly and reflexively calls monstrous crimes “tragedies” is a society that has lost the ability to make moral judgments, has lost the very concept of moral judgment, and so is heading for destruction.
Meave Ryan saw the boy waving his arms as she braked to a stop behind a string of cars. The other cars went on through the intersection, but she rolled down the window. “He was screaming for help,” she said. “He said, ‘My mommy just drove the car in the water.’ “
Ms. Ryan, 31, told the boy—La’Shaun Armstrong, 10—to hop in. She drove the short distance to the boat ramp where he said his mother had driven into the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y. “I got out of the car and went halfway in the water to see if I could see their car,” Ms. Ryan said.
The vehicle, a black minivan, was already submerged. Ms. Ryan told La’Shaun to get back in her car, and they drove to Fire Department headquarters a few blocks away. It was all but empty; the fire trucks were out on a call. “We knocked on the dispatcher’s door,” Ms. Ryan said. It was 7:50 p.m. on Tuesday.
It did not take long for the horrifying meaning of the boy’s story to register: His mother, Lashanda Armstrong, 25, had done what La’Shaun had said—she had, in fact, driven the minivan into the river. La’Shaun had escaped, swimming through 45-degree water.
The minivan was in eight feet of water. La’Shaun’s mother was still inside, as were her three other children, identified by the police as Landen Pierre, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, 11 months.
Ms. Ryan said that La’Shaun had told her why his mother was so upset. “There was an argument about cheating, that his stepfather was cheating on his mother,” Ms. Ryan said. On the short ride from their apartment in Newburgh to the boat ramp, La’Shaun told Ms. Ryan, his mother had called an older relative and said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to do something crazy, you have to forgive me.”
Ms. Ryan said La’Shaun had told her that the call had ended with the older relative saying she was going to dial 911.
The police sent officers to the apartment, but it was too late. Ms. Armstrong had already piled the children into the middle row and was on the way to what the mayor, Nicholas Valentine, called “a tragedy in this city that I would say is second to none.”
Ms. Ryan, who described herself as a “stay-at-home mom” who was on the way to see relatives in Fishkill, N.Y., said La’Shaun was clear about what had happened. She said he told her that Ms. Armstrong had grabbed the children as the minivan rolled into the water and said, “If I’m going to die, you’re going to die with me.” She said that La’Shaun broke free, rolled down the window and swam out.
He also told her that his mother tried to stop the tragedy that was playing out, but it was too late. He said that as the minivan began sinking Ms. Armstrong said, “Oh, my God, I made a mistake, I made a mistake.” He said she tried to shift into reverse. But the minivan was too far into the water to go back.
Ms. Armstrong’s neighbors said she had loaded the children into the minivan after a vicious argument with the father of the three youngest children, identified by the police as Jean Pierre, 26. He had been her high school prom date and had worked in a fast-food restaurant, neighbors said.
Mr. Pierre, by some accounts, had helped Ms. Armstrong with the responsibilities of caring for four children on limited means. But there were tensions between the two: Mr. Pierre did not live with Ms. Armstrong.
“From the outside, it looked perfect,” said Sharon Ramirez, 22, a neighbor and friend of Ms. Armstrong. “But there were a lot of things going on. They had a rocky relationship.” Ms. Ramirez was certain of that because, she said, she had carried on a three-month relationship with Mr. Pierre last year, when Ms. Armstrong was pregnant with Lainaina.
The first sign of the tragedy involved the argument at Ms. Armstrong’s apartment on a hardscrabble block in the center of Newburgh, about 60 miles north of Manhattan. The police chief, Michael Ferrara, said that a relative of Ms. Armstrong’s had called 911 around 7:30 p.m., saying that Ms. Armstrong was “involved in a domestic dispute.” Chief Ferrara said the caller described hearing “tussling in the background” during a call from Ms. Armstrong.
An aunt of Ms. Armstrong, Angie Gilliam, said she had called 911 after Ms. Armstrong phoned her father, who was at Ms. Gilliam’s house. Ms. Gilliam said she could hear “the kids screaming.” Ms. Armstrong, according to Ms. Gilliam, said there was a dispute with Mr. Pierre.
“Things didn’t sound good,” Ms. Gilliam said.
She and Ms. Armstrong’s father were so concerned that they drove to the apartment, arriving there to find the police officers who had been sent in response to her call, but no one else.
“It was too late,” she said.
The police said it was the first time they had been sent to the apartment since Ms. Armstrong moved there last year. The police also said Mr. Pierre had no criminal history of domestic violence. Chief Ferrara said that the police had questioned Mr. Pierre but that no charges had been filed.
Ms. Ramirez, who said she had had the relationship with Mr. Pierre, said she had met him when Mr. Pierre’s sister lived in Ms. Armstrong’s apartment before Ms. Armstrong and the children moved there a year ago. Ms. Ramirez said that Mr. Pierre told her he had children but denied that he still had a relationship with their mother.
One neighbor, Steve Sheehan, said Mr. Pierre and Ms. Armstrong did things as a couple, recalling how, in the warm-weather months, they would barbecue on a grill set up on the sidewalk.
But her landlord, John Boubaris, said that twice in the last year she had asked him to change the locks to keep Mr. Pierre out. The last time was two months ago, he said.
“She said she doesn’t want him here,” Mr. Boubaris recalled, adding, “He was here all the time.”
Still, the day that ended in death at the bottom of the river started with no sign of trouble. Mr. Sheehan said Ms. Armstrong and Mr. Pierre had loaded the children into the minivan in the morning. They would often go out to buy groceries or to do laundry. “It was a normal day,” Mr. Sheehan said.
Mr. Boubaris said he stopped by the apartment in the early afternoon. Ms. Armstrong was home with her son Landen, he said. He said Ms. Armstrong had been looking for a job and complained that it was hard to find baby sitters so she could work.
As for La’Shaun, the county agency responsible for child welfare issued a statement that said he was safe. Ms. Gilliam, Ms. Armstrong’s aunt, said he was “fine.”
“He’ll be staying with me,” she said.
Later, Ms. Gilliam and four family members went to the river, next to the ramp that Ms. Armstrong drove down. The relatives placed three stuffed animals and three white balloons on the concrete seawall. Then they sat down. Ms. Gilliam wept, and the others huddled around her.
“She’s a good mother,” Ms. Gilliam said. “Just because she drove a car … ” Her voice trailed off. Then she said, “Nobody knows what my niece went through.”
[end of article]
Hmm, yes, just because she murdered her children doesn’t mean she wasn’t a good mother.
Roland D. writes: