Thursday, April 14, 2011


New details are emerging about the circumstances surrounding a Newburgh, New York mother who was distraught over a domestic dispute and drove her minivan into the Hudson River Tuesday night with her four children inside. The mom and three small children drowned, while a 10-year-old boy managed to survive.

"If I'm going to die, you're going to die with me," the mother, identified as Lashanda Armstrong, said to her children before driving off a concrete boat ramp on Washington Street and into the Hudson River at about 8 p.m. Tuesday, the young survivor told authorities. The location is about six blocks away from Armstrong's apartment.

Police say Armstrong, 25, had four child passengers in the vehicle identified as 10-year-old Lashaun, 5-year-old Landon Pierre, 2-year-old Lance Pierre, and 11-month-old Lainaina Pierre.

Her eldest son Lashaun was the only one able to escape the sinking vehicle by opening and climbing out a power window on the driver's side of the vehicle and swimming to shore.

Lashaun revealed to investigators that as he was wriggling out of the vehicle, his mother pulled on his pant leg and said, "I made a mistake," before letting him go, according to reports. She may have also tried to put the car in reverse, but it was too late.

Officials say it only took two minutes for the minivan to sink to the bottom of the Hudson River.

Lashaun who was spotted by passerby Meave Ryan, 31, was driven six blocks to a nearby firehouse where he was treated.

Officials say he was soaking wet and had difficulty speaking. Eventually, the boy was able to tell officials about his mother and siblings, and the vehicle in the Hudson River.

A police officer arrived at the firehouse to take custody of the boy. He was later released to the custody of his late mother's aunt Angela Gilliam, who told reporters "My nephew's doing fine. He's really not talking."

Firefighters, police boats, helicopters and divers responded to the location where the car entered the murky Hudson River.

The car was found about 25 yards offshore in 8- to 10-feet of water about an hour later. Investigators believe the children were alive at the time of the drowning.

The water temperature at the time was between 40- to 45-degrees.

The police chief in Newburgh called the discovery of the van with the bodies inside a "horrible sight" while Newburgh Mayor Nick Valentine described it as a tragedy that was second to none in the city's history.

Officials also said if 10-year-old Lashaun did not survive, their investigation would have probably become a missing persons case rather than a muder-suicide.

Cops believe this tragedy is somehow connected to a domestic dispute from earlier in the evening. They received a call around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday from relatives that there was some sort of verbal altercation at the woman's home between Lashandra and the father of three of her children.

Armstrong has apparently called her father for help, with her kids screaming in the background. She said, "I'm sorry, I'm going to do something crazy," according to what the boy told authorities.

Armstrong's father called Gillam, his sister and Amrstrong's aunt, who phoned Newburgh police. But when officers arrived at home, located at 53 William Street, no one was home.

Soon afterward, the 10-year-old showed up at the firehouse with the shocking tale. Officials say he appeared "shaken up" and made no mention of a previous altercation his mother may have had at their William Street residence.

Officials say all four children shared the same mother, but Lashaun had a different father than his three younger siblings.

The father of the three young victims, Jean Pierre, does not live at 53 William Street and investigators say there was no documented domestic disputes at the house.

But neighbors told reporters the pair, who had been dating since high school, often had loud fights over Pierre's philandering. A neighbor, who later became friends with Armstrong, had a three-month affair with Pierre while the late mother was pregnant with her last child, according to reports.

According to her landlord, Armstrong asked to have the locks changed twice in six month. Her most recent request came in March.

Hetty Minatee, a teacher at Young and Unique Christian Development Child Care where the four children were enrolled, stated Armstrong appeared upset over the past few weeks. Armstrong also revealed to Minatee that she was seeking a court order to restrict Pierre's contact with the children.

Cops took Pierre in for questioning and released him Wednesday night. He is not expected to be charged.

The bodies are now at the medical examiner's office and the van is in police possession. Autopsies for all the victims are scheduled for Wednesday.

The exact circumstances surrounding Tuesday evening's tragedy are still under investigation.

Mourners created a memorial of stuffed animals and candles for the young mother and three small children at their William Street home and at the boat ramp where the van went into the river.

Newburgh is about 60 miles north of 
New York City and has a population of 30,000 residents.


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