The fathers of two of the three kids allegedly drowned by their mother are suing the city of New York and child protective services for ignoring what they say were red flags in the years leading to their Sept. 2022 deaths.
Erin Merdy, 30, is facing three counts of murder for drowning her children—7-year-old Zachary, 4-year-old Liliana, and 3-month-old Oliver—off of Coney Island. Prosecutors allege Merdy, who has a history of mental health issues, took her kids to the beach in the early morning of Sept. 12, 2022, and threw them into the ocean.
About an hour later, she allegedly called relatives, who eventually called 911 when Merdy could not provide details of the children’s whereabouts. It took about 90 minutes before police found the kids, who were taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. Merdy was eventually found nearby, in Brighton Beach, wet and barefoot, prosecutors said at the time. She is currently being held at the Rose M. Singer jail.
Now, a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of New York on Friday by the fathers of Zachary and Liliana—and the estates of two of the children—alleges that Merdy should not have had custody in the first place after a lengthy case history with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). The fathers filed the $100 million lawsuit against the City of New York, the ACS, the ACS’ current and former commissioner, and others.
“Merdy was an unstable mother, known by all defendants to have severe mental health problems; to be physically abusive to the children; to neglect the children, inclusive of withholding food from them; and to disappear and leave the children unsupervised and in danger,” the lawsuit states.
It notes that in 2019, Merdy took her two children to Massachusetts without letting the fathers know, despite custody agreements. There, she allegedly repeatedly failed to ensure the kids attended school or were picked up, causing staffers to file a report against her.
When she returned to New York a year later, the lawsuit states, Merdy’s alleged “erratic and dangerous behavior” spurred at least two different ACS reports. The lawsuit states that the agency allegedly closed its investigation each time and let her keep her children.
The first report in Nov. 2022 came after ACS received a report about Merdy allegedly neglecting her children and that her “mental health was severely deteriorating to the extent that she was unable to provide care.” The ACS closed its probe despite learning that Merdy was not seeking treatment for her mental health, which included debilitating depression, the lawsuit states.
Two months later, the agency opened a “preventative case and began providing in-home ‘social services’ to the children,” the lawsuit alleges. It alleges that ACS failed to complete the many in-home visits designed to ensure the safety of the children, ignored Merdy’s refusal to engage in mental health treatment, and failed to sensitize a family service plan.
In Dec. 2021, the agency received another report alleging Merdy was “abusing and neglecting the children in an increasingly dangerous manner,” the lawsuit states. The report accused Merdy of being neglectful, not regularly feeding her kids, and that she and her lover were physically abusing the children. Around that time, the lawsuit states. Merdy and the kids were also homeless and living in shelters.
The lawsuit states that for a second time, ACS closed its investigation into Merdy without any involvement in the investigation by one of the children’s fathers, Derrick Merdy. The agency also allowed the children to remain in Merdy’s custody.
Around that same time, Derrick Merdy reported his concerns that one of Merdy’s caseworkers knew about her living situation but failed to make a report about the alleged child abuse or neglect.
The lawsuit states that one of Merdy’s children, 7-year-old Zachary, was absent from school so often between 2021 and 2022 that the school officially filed a report of suspected child abuse with ACS.
That May, Merdy gave birth to her third child and was diagnosed soon after with severe postpartum depression that forced her to be hospitalized, the lawsuit states. She is accused of drowning her children just four months later.
“There was an immediate threat to the children’s life and health, and based on this, defendants should have removed the children from Ms. Merdy,” the lawsuit states. “Showing complete and utter indifference for the complaints alleged against Ms. Merdy, including concerns of her mental well-being, defendants allowed the children to remain in her custody.”
Merdy’s lawyer, the city, ACS, and current and former ACS commissioners named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Post source: TDB