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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Mother, 3 children drown after she drives van into river”

    NEW YORK — In a case that revived memories of Susan Smith, who left her two children to drown in her sinking vehicle, police Wednesday said a mother and three of her children died after she apparently drove her minivan into the Hudson River north of New York City. One child escaped and swam to shore.

    The deaths occurred just moments after police in Newburgh, a small working-class city about 70 miles north of Manhattan, received a call of a domestic disturbance Tuesday at the woman’s home. They responded, but not before the woman — identified as 25-year-old Lashanda Armstrong — had piled her four children into the vehicle and driven six blocks to the river bank.

    Before the car sank, a 10-year-old son, Lashaun, escaped through a window, swam to shore, and ran to a nearby fire station for help.

    His siblings, Landon, 5, Lance, 2, and Lainaina, 11 months, died in the car along with their mother, and at a news conference, police and fire officials said it appeared all were alive when the minivan was driven into the water.

    Officials identified the father of the three children who died as Jean Pierre and said they had spoken with him but did not give additional details. They did not identify the father of Lashaun.

    Police found the van and the bodies of the woman and children in about 8 feet of water off the dock next to a local restaurant called Gully’s. The restaurant is closed for renovations, so there were no apparent witnesses other than the boy and possibly a woman whom police described as a passerby who spotted the boy as he fled the scene. She accompanied him to the fire station.

    Fire Chief Michael Vatter said Lashaun was “”soaking wet”” and badly shaken when he showed up at the station. “”He was having difficulty speaking, of course, and just was repeating about the car being in the water with his mom and siblings,”” Vatter said.

    Police Chief Michael Ferrara said officials first received word of a problem at the home at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday when a relative of Armstrong phoned them to report that there was a domestic disturbance. The relative, who was not identified, had been on the phone with the mother and was concerned based on her talk with Armstrong and on what Ferrara said was a “”history of domestic”” disputes between Armstrong and Pierre.

    “”They thought there was trouble,”” he said of the relative who made the first call.

    Within minutes, police had responded but found nobody home. At nearly the same time, the 10-year-old showed up at the fire station. Vatter and Ferrara said Lashaun somehow managed to open a power window before the car sank.

    The Times Herald-Record newspaper quoted a downstairs neighbor of the victims, Jim Simeon, as saying he often heard children playing. “”The kids play, but not fighting,”” Simeon said. “”It’s terrible.”” He said he had heard nothing on Tuesday night.

    In 1994, Susan Smith told police she had been carjacked by a man who drove off with her two sons, ages 3 and 14 months, in the car. Nine days later, the South Carolina woman confessed to strapping her children into the vehicle and rolling it into a lake. She was sentenced to life in prison.

    Early Wednesday, nearly 12 hours after the car had been lifted from the river, onlookers gathered along the dock and stared into the gray waters expressing astonishment at what had happened.

    “”In this case there is no logic,”” Mayor Nicholas Valentine said, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported. “”No one should do anything like this. Find another way out of it, especially with the children. Find help.””

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