MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A mentally disturbed suburban New York woman who drowned her three young children in a bathtub in 2008 wants a cut of $350,000 in wrongful death settlements obtained by the children's fathers, attorneys said Friday.
Leatrice Brewer, 33, was found not guilty because of mental disease or defect in the deaths of her children, so her attorneys say she should not be subject to laws that bar convicts from profiting from their crimes.
"Until Leatrice Brewer is disqualified, she is entitled to a share," attorney Peter Kelly said in Nassau County surrogate's court, where Judge Edward McCarty scheduled a series of hearings to examine the issue. Brewer, who is being treated at an upstate New York psychiatric hospital, did not attend the proceeding, but Kelly asked that she be brought to future hearings.
Although the case would establish a precedent in New York if Brewer succeeds, she is not expected to actually see any money because of a $1.2 million lien against her for psychiatric counseling and other services she has received since her arrest, attorneys said.
New York's "Son of Sam Law," amended in 2001, was designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes, including "income generated as a result of having committed the crime." McCarty noted the unique aspect of the Brewer case is that she has not been convicted.
Brewer admitted she drowned her three young children — ages 6, 5 and 18 months — in the bathtub of her New Cassel apartment in February 2008. She later placed the children's bodies on a bed, and then attempted suicide by swallowing a concoction of household cleaning chemicals. When that attempt failed, she jumped out her second-story window, but survived.
Instead of facing trial on three murder counts in the February 2008 deaths, Brewer pleaded "not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect" after psychiatrists determined she suffered a "major depressive disorder" and believed she killed the children to save them from the potentially fatal effects of voodoo.
She is being kept at a state psychiatric hospital until psychiatrists determine she is no longer mentally ill.
The case drew attention to Nassau County's social services agency, whose caseworkers visited Brewer's apartment two days before the killings and found no one home, but neglected to schedule an immediate follow-up visit. Two social workers were later suspended.
Lawsuits against the county filed by the father of Brewer's 5-year-old and 18-month old sons were settled for $250,000. A lawsuit filed by the father of the 6-year-old daughter was recently settled for $100,000.
"The only reason that there is money in this estate is because of her actions," said attorney Thomas Foley, who represents Innocent Demesyeux, the father of the two boys. "She killed the kids and now there's money."
The next court proceeding in the case was scheduled for Aug. 15.