Leatrice Brewer on her slain
kids: 'I was sick at the time'
By Bridget Murphy - Newsday.com
December 15, 2013
Leatrice Brewer knows she'll never escape the
memory of killing her three children -- the horror that landed her
in a maximum-security psychiatric ward in upstate New York.
On Feb. 24, 2008, Brewer stabbed her 6-year-old
daughter, Jewell Ward, as the girl tried to fight back. She then
drowned her daughter and sons -- 5-year-old Michael Demesyeux and
18-month-old Innocent Demesyeux Jr. -- in the bathtub of their New
Next, Brewer attempted suicide by swallowing
aspirin and household cleaners. When she awoke, she tried again,
jumping out a second-story window.
More than five years later, the fight over the
victims' estates still is in court. Last month, a judge ruled that
Brewer couldn't collect from $350,000 in wrongful-death
Brewer was committed to Mid-Hudson Forensic
Psychiatric Center in 2009, after a judge accepted her plea that
she was insane during the killings. Brewer told psychiatrists she
did it to try to break a voodoo curse.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't
think about holding them in my arms and loving them," Brewer, 33,
said of her children in a recent exclusive interview. "I wish that
I could take it back, but they will always be in my heart."
But Innocent Demesyeux, 34, the father of
Brewer's two sons and a party in a current civil case on the
victims' estates, doesn't believe her.
"I don't think that she's sorry for killing the
kids," the Queens ambulette driver said.
After years of therapy, Brewer explained her
actions like this: "I was sick at the time. . . . I cope with it
by praying and talking to God and asking him for forgiveness."
Demesyeux and Jewell's father are trying to
collect the settlements that Nassau County made after
wrongful-death lawsuits involving Jewell, Michael and Innocent Jr.
In November, Surrogate's Court Judge Edward
McCarty III ruled it would be "repugnant to decency" for Brewer to
collect any of the money.
The settlements followed separate claims by
Demesyeux and Jewell's father that social service caseworkers
could have done more to save Brewer's kids in what had been a
A state probe found county child protection
workers did incomplete investigations and missed signs of abuse.
They visited the apartment two days before Brewer killed her
children and after a complaint that she'd threatened to harm them.
But they left believing no one was home. Brewer
said in the interview that she and the children were there, but
she was hiding.
"I was home, but I was scared," she said.
McCarty still must decide if the fathers
qualify for the estate money. They won't if an investigation finds
they abandoned the children to Brewer's care.
Peter Kelly, an attorney for Brewer, said in
court that Brewer sought estate money only to block Demesyeux from
collecting because she believed he had abandoned them.
Brewer said she also blames Demesyeux for
playing a role in what led her to kill the children, saying she
"assumed he put voodoo on me."
Demesyeux's attorney, Thomas Foley, said
Brewer's claim his client played any role in the children's deaths
shows she is "a very sick person."
Brewer said that while in state custody she got
pregnant and gave birth four years ago to a baby boy who is now in
foster care. The boy's father is another patient, she said.
A state Office of Mental Health spokesman said
he was not permitted to answer questions concerning specific
patients, but a department policy discourages sexual activity
Any decision on whether Brewer would be freed,
authorities said, would fall to doctors and the court to determine
as she undergoes evaluations every two years. "I just want to get
out of the hospital and live a good life," she said.
In the meantime, Brewer said she looks at a
photo of Jewell, Michael and Innocent Jr. every night before she
Their images are from a news story about their
deaths -- the most recent pictures she has of them.
Long Island Mother Who
Drowned 3 Children in Bathtub Gives Birth to 4th Child While
Leatrice Brewer drowned her three children in a
Long Island bathtub in 2008
By Ann Givens and Pei-Sze Cheng -
Friday, Oct 11, 2013
A woman who admitted to drowning her three
young children in her Long Island bathtub five years ago has given
birth to a fourth child while incarcerated at what is supposed to
be a secure upstate psychiatric hospital, the I-Team has learned.
Leatrice Brewer, 33, was found not guilty
because of mental disease or defect in the 2008 deaths of her
children, and has been held ever since at the secure Mid-Hudson
Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton. Her case has received
renewed attention in recent weeks because she is trying to collect
$350,000 from a settlement that the childrens’ fathers won from
Nassau County in wrongful death lawsuits.
But now the father of two of the three children
Brewer killed says he has been contacted by a lawyer trying to
find an appropriate placement for the newborn Brewer had while in
“She told me Leatrice had a baby while she was
in that facility,” Innocent Demesyeux said in an interview with
It is unclear who that baby’s father is, or
under what circumstances Brewer became pregnant. The state Office
of Mental Health, which oversees Mid-Hudson, declined to comment,
citing privacy laws.
Attorney Tom Foley, who represents Demesyeux,
said "it's outrageous" that Brewer was able to conceive a child
"This person's supposedly in a secure facility
and she gets pregnant. This is the woman who had no idea what she
was doing when she murdered her children."
Because she was technically found not
responsible for the children's deaths, lawyers say she may be able
to claim some or all of the $350,000 estate their fathers won.
However, even if the judge rules she can
collect, Brewer is not expected to see any of the money -- there
is a $1.2 million lien against her for psychiatric counseling and
other services she has received since her arrest, lawyers have
Another option the court could consider is to
award some or all of the money to Brewer baby, as her heir.
It is unclear who now has custody of the baby.
After Nassau Surrogates Court Judge Edward
McCarty decides whether Brewer is entitled to collect, he must
make a similar ruling about the children's two fathers. If he
finds that the men effectively abandoned their children, they may
not be entitled, lawyers say.
She Did the Crime, But Won't
Do the Time
Leatrice Brewer Cops Insanity Plea, County's
By Victoria Caruso-Davis - Antonnews.com
February 20, 2009
Leatrice Brewer stood before a Nassau County
judge Feb. 9 and, when asked, admitted to killing her three
children. At this time, Brewer pleaded not responsible by reason
of mental disease or defect and, as a result, will not be subject
to a trial or jail time. Instead, Brewer will be sent to a maximum
security psychiatric center.
The plea, which was agreed upon early last week
by Brewer, the Nassau County District Attorney and Nassau County
Judge Meryl Berkowitz, was the result of two independent
psychiatric evaluations that showed, at the time Brewer killed her
three children, she did not know what she was doing was wrong.
When police arrived at Brewer's home on Feb.
24, 2008, she told officers that, at around 4 a.m. that morning,
she woke up her 6-year-old daughter Jewell Ward, telling her it
was "time to go" before getting a knife and slitting her throat.
She then placed the girl back on the bed and drew a bath. She then
drowned 18-month-old son Innocent Demesyeux, Jr. in the bathtub
and put him back in bed beside Jewell. When she noticed her
daughter was still alive, she drowned her in the tub. She then
took her middle child, 5-year-old Michael Innocent Demesyeux, and
drowned him as well.
Brewer told police she then ingested a
combination of bleach, Windex, OxiClean along with a bottle of
aspirin and climbed into bed with her children, hoping she would
die as well. When she woke the next morning and realized her
suicide was unsuccessful, Brewer tried again to kill herself, this
time by jumping out her second-story apartment window. Only when
this second attempt was unsuccessful did Brewer call 911 and
confess to the killings.
According to the psychiatric evaluations
performed by board certified psychiatrists hired by both the
defendant and the prosecution, Brewer, at the time of the murders,
suffered from "major depressive disorder," with "psychotic
features," "hallucinations" and "paranoia." The reports go on to
say that Brewer understood that she was killing her children, but
believed at the time that she was doing so to save them and
herself from what she believed were the continuing and potentially
mortal effects of voodoo, having stated to police that she killed
the children to "protect them from evil spirits."
In consenting to the plea, Assistant District
Attorney Michael Canty submitted to the court a detailed statement
saying that, based on two independent psychiatric evaluations
performed on Brewer, the DA's office believes the defense would
prevail at trial using the "not responsible by reason of mental
disease or defect" defense. Under Penal Law §40.10, such a defense
only requires that the defendant be able to prove by a
"preponderance of the evidence" that, at the time of the murders,
Brewer "lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate either
the nature and consequences of such conduct or that such conduct
By entering a "not responsible" plea, Brewer
has waived her right to a criminal trial and accepted the
allegations that she committed each element outlined in the murder
indictment lodged against her. As a result, Brewer will be
incarcerated indefinitely at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric
Center, where she will receive treatment and periodic evaluation.
According to the DA's office, there is neither
a mandatory minimum nor mandatory maximum in regard to how long
Brewer will remain incarcerated but spokesperson Eric Phillips
said she will be evaluated first after six months, then a year
later, then every two years after that. "In each evaluation, she
is deemed one of three things: mentally ill and dangerous,
mentally ill and not dangerous, or no longer mentally ill. Only if
the determination falls under that last category, would the mental
health officials for the state consider her release," said
Phillips. "Given the nature of her crimes and the scope of her
psychiatric diagnosis, it's not realistic to think she will be
released anytime in the near future. It is more realistic to
estimate that she will spend a long, long time, perhaps even the
remainder of her life, in a secure psychiatric facility."
Phillips added that the "overall length of
incarceration will depend entirely on her mental health progress
and the doctors' determinations following each two-year
Additionally, as a result of the plea, Brewer
will never serve a day in prison. "Based on our investigation and
the independent psychiatric evaluations, the judge found her 'not
responsible by reason of mental disease or defect' at the time of
the killings. Her criminal culpability pertains solely to the time
frame of the killings, so even if somebody down the road deems her
no longer mentally ill, at the time of the killings she was
mentally ill and therefore she cannot be the subject of a
traditional criminal prosecution," said Phillips.
"I am shocked that the district attorney would
allow Brewer to plead insanity and be found not guilty without a
trial. The question of whether she is guilty or not guilty by
reason of insanity should be decided by regular people on a jury
and not by lawyers and politicians," said Innocent Demesyeux, the
father of the two slain boys, in a statement through his attorney.
"[Without a] trial, people will never know what really happened to
my children and how the county government failed them. My children
deserve their day in court."
Of the plea deal, Demesyeux' attorney Sanford
Pirotin said it is a "tremendous disappointment not only to the
father but to every person who lives in this county." Pirotin
said. "Never has a triple killer - in this county, state or
country - been allowed to plead not guilty. In any other case, the
DA would have wanted this to go to trial and would have
prosecuted, which is her job. DA Rice refused to do that. Why?"
The attorney said neither he nor his client was
ever contacted about the plea and that his attempts for an
adjournment, along with a request for the DA to step aside and
have New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appoint a
special prosecutor to handle this and related matters, fell on
Pirotin believes that the DA's decision to
accept the plea was an eleventh hour attempt to avoid having the
results from a New York State Office of Children and Family
Services Child Fatality Report. The report was released Feb. 4
with the plea deal first presented Feb. 6 and finalized Feb. 9.
"This deal was cut and finished in less then two business days,"
he said. "We believe that the DA refused to continue with the case
and dropped the charges for the simple reason that [the county]
wanted to cover up how they goofed up and did not want the
information [contained in the report] brought up in trial."
In a prepared statement, Pirotin said, "In a
situation where the county executive has already stated that the
system failed these children, transparency on the county's part is
key to avoid the appearance of impropriety."
Phillips, however, states the two have nothing
to do with one another. "The report and Child Protection Services'
history with this family have nothing to do with the criminal case
against the defendant," he told The Westbury Times. "Our
investigation and prosecution are focused solely on the
defendant's actions and how those actions are addressed by state
criminal and mental health law."
As it currently stands, Brewer will be sent to
the mental facility in upstate New York. While there is nothing he
can do to undo the plea, Pirotin is still working with his client
in a civil suit, for an undisclosed amount, against Nassau County
Executive Thomas Suozzi, Nassau County Commissioner of Social
Services John E. Imhof, Ph.D., Nassau County Department of Child
Protective Services (CPS) Director Maureen McLoughlin and Nassau
County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey as well as other
departments and offices.
In his claim, Demesyeux alleges that the Nassau
County agencies were "negligent, reckless and grossly negligent
and in direct violation of their own internal procedures as well
as federal, state and county rules, regulations and statutes in
investigating child abuse and neglect allegations."
Additionally, Ricky Ward, the father of
murdered 6-year-old Jewell, has a wrongful death suit against
Nassau County, Child Protective Services and the Department of
Social Services. Ward, who is being represented by the Long
Island-based firm Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, charges that the
county "negligently, carelessly and recklessly failed to protect
Jewel Ward and are, therefore, responsible for the pain and
suffering and wrongful death of his daughter." The lawsuit alleges
that if the agencies followed policy, Jewell, Michael and Innocent
would have been removed from Brewer's home, preventing their
Cries of Anguish Fill Church
as 3 Slain Children Are Mourned Together
By Manny Fernandez and Angela Macropoulos - The
New York Times
March 2, 2008
At a packed Baptist church on Long Island,
three children lay in a single coffin of white, themselves dressed
in white. The oldest child, age 6, had her arms wrapped around the
two younger ones, and with them in the small gold-trimmed coffin,
just above their heads, were two ceramic angel figurines.
Hundreds of people — relatives, neighbors,
ministers, elected officials — filed past the open coffin on
Saturday during a somber, anguished funeral for the children, a
girl, a boy and a baby named Innocent.
The authorities have said that the children —
Jewell Nicole Ward and her two half-brothers, Michael Demesyeux,
5, and Innocent Demesyeux, 18 months — were murdered by their
mother, Leatrice Brewer, 27. The viewing and funeral at St. John’s
Baptist Church in Westbury were less than a half-mile from where
the children died last Sunday, in their mother’s apartment in the
Nassau County hamlet of New Cassel.
Ushers passed out bottles of water, paper fans
and tissue boxes. Before the coffin was closed, someone put a
small stuffed animal at the children’s feet. People wailed openly,
and at times Maebell Mickens, the grandmother of Ms. Brewer and
the great-grandmother of the children, had to be held and consoled
“To my angels, you are the most precious thing
in my life,” Ms. Mickens said during the service. “Jewell, I would
ask you about your mother and you would tell me what she did. And
you know I would go after her. I tried to protect you all, even
though you knew the thing wasn’t right.”
At 8:55 a.m. last Sunday, Ms. Brewer called 911
to say that she had killed her sons and daughter. She was calm,
and even spelled her name for the operator, the authorities said.
When the police arrived at her apartment on Prospect Avenue, she
took them to the bedroom, where the children, all in pajamas, lay
slain on a bed.
The children had been drowned in the bathtub,
the police said; Jewell’s throat had been slashed, and there were
signs of possible poisoning. At Ms. Brewer’s arraignment on murder
charges on Tuesday, she pleaded not guilty.
The service stirred not only grief among the
mourners, but a range of conflicting emotions. Some spoke
indirectly of the responsibility they had all shared in looking
out for the children, but no one spoke directly about the handling
of the case by county agencies, some of which have been criticized
for a series of missteps. Others made pleas for mercy for Ms.
“There is a thin line between sanity and
insanity, and I want the elected officials to think of that when
judging my granddaughter,” said the Rev. Myrtle Smith, another of
the children’s great-grandmothers. “When you judge, judge
She added: “We can say she was doing drugs, but
maybe she was medicating the pain.”
Innocent Demesyeux, the father of Ms. Brewer’s
two sons, called a hot line the Friday before the killings and
said he was concerned that she was going to harm the children.
Child welfare officials sent caseworkers to the apartment twice
that day, but there was no answer. County officials said a
supervisor failed to send a caseworker to follow up on Saturday,
and by Sunday morning, the children were dead.
On Tuesday, the Nassau County executive, Thomas
R. Suozzi, announced that the supervisor had been suspended
without pay. At the funeral, Mr. Suozzi quoted from the 1963
eulogy the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave for children
killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. He also said he had
ordered a full investigation.
“We need to know how, somehow, all of us failed
to save these children,” he said. “People will be held
Mr. Suozzi began his speech by saying, “The
Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Mr. Demesyeux’s lawyer,
Sanford Pirotin, said later that he found the remark offensive.
“It speaks for itself,” Mr. Pirotin said. “It was damage control.”
And there were the children. Jewell, who was
born June 10, 2001, was dressed in a white silk dress with
matching stockings and white ballet flats. She loved to model
clothes and purses. Her first-grade teacher read remembrances
written by her classmates. One wrote, “She was my best friend.”
And another recalled, “She wrote me a picture.”
Michael, born Feb. 10, 2003, attended Dryden
Street School in Westbury. For his birthday a few weeks ago, he
had asked his father not only to get a gift for him, but also to
get presents for his brother and sister, recalled Venus Hamilton,
Mr. Demesyeux’s companion.
Innocent was born Aug. 26, 2006. He and his
siblings were buried at Amityville Cemetery.
Disintegration of a Mother’s
Life Was Long Hidden in Plain Sight
By Paul Vitello - The New York Times
March 2, 2008
NEW CASSEL, N.Y. — She was sometimes seen
good-naturedly juggling her children while pushing a stroller
laden with groceries. At other times she seemed lost in thought,
pushing the same stroller, empty, through the streets while the
children remained home alone.
Leatrice Brewer, 27, was a troubled woman known
to her family and neighbors as an uneven mother whose manner with
her children seemed to toggle between extreme possessiveness and
Yet like many things hidden in plain sight, the
disintegration of her life — and the drowning of her three
children, who the police say died at Ms. Brewer’s hands — was an
end that no one saw coming, and everyone saw coming.
Relatives and friends poring through the
remembered details of Ms. Brewer’s life portrayed her as someone
who had struggled with the painful legacy of abandonment in
childhood by her mentally ill mother; who drove herself to live an
independent life, frequently working two jobs; who could lavish
love and attention on her children despite bouts of depression,
drug dependence and mental illness of her own; and who seemed in
the end to have abandoned her haunted sense of duty as a mother
and transferred it in large measure to the shoulders of her
precocious 6-year-old daughter.
Last Sunday, Ms. Brewer dialed 911 to report
that she had drowned the children one by one in the bathtub in
their small, neatly kept apartment here. Ms. Brewer said she first
had subdued the oldest, 6-year-old Jewell Ward, by stabbing her
repeatedly with a knife. Ms. Brewer then threw herself from the
second-floor bedroom window.
On Tuesday, while handcuffed to her bed at
Nassau University Medical Center, Ms. Brewer was arraigned on
three counts of murder and pleaded not guilty. She was under
treatment there for a back injury suffered in her fall, which the
police said appeared to have been a suicide attempt.
A lawyer representing Ms. Brewer, Michelle
Armstrong, said on Saturday that it had not been decided whether
Ms. Brewer would undergo a psychiatric evaluation of her fitness
to stand trial. “It’s not only a tragedy that it’s happened to
these children,” Ms. Armstrong said, “but what happened to their
mother as well.”
Last week, relatives blamed the Nassau County
child welfare agency for the catastrophe, saying it should have
intervened more aggressively. But family members and the
authorities seemed to share a sense of disbelief at how familiar
they had been with Ms. Brewer’s troubles, and yet how unimaginable
the danger to her children was all along.
“Everybody knew she left the kids home
sometimes,” said Anthony Brooks, a cousin of Jewell’s father,
Ricky Ward. “But never would you think that something like this
In retrospect, scenes both happy and troubling
took on deeply darker shades of meaning:
The way Jewell was so adept at changing diapers
and washing the baby bottles for her half-brother, 18-month-old
Innocent Demesyeux, and was so proud when she was called her
brothers’ “little mommy.”
The way the middle child, 5-year-old Michael
Demesyeux, would cling to visitors and ask with a smile to be
taken home by them.
The many times Ms. Brewer bought egg salad
sandwiches at the nearby bodega for her children and a 40-ounce
bottle of beer for herself, telling the owner she was in a hurry
because the children were home unattended.
The many times the police were called to her
apartment by the children’s fathers, who claimed she had exploded
in anger and assaulted them when they tried to see their children.
In a tight-knit community where a dozen
churches and scores of family members were within walking
distance, where individual social workers and case workers were
known on the street by sight, the social safety net in all its
guises seemed to have been as much at a loss as Ms. Brewer herself
was in those solitary walks with the empty stroller.
“People can snap,” said Satina Fenner, 26, who
said she had known Ms. Brewer since grammar school in New Cassel.
In some ways, critics said last week, the bonds between a
community and one of its own can also snap.
Leatrice Brewer was the elder child of Pearly
Mae Mickens, who was remembered in this working-class Long Island
community of black and immigrant residents as struggling
throughout her 46-year life with drug addiction and mental
During one of their mother’s absences —
relatives were unsure whether she was in jail or hospitalized —
Leatrice and her brother, Robert, went to live with their
grandmother Maebell Mickens. When their mother was released, she
lived in their grandmother’s house off and on, but never again
established a household with her children.
Daquann Redd, 20, a cousin of Leatrice and
Robert, remembers Leatrice as a teenager, “determined to succeed
at something,” and somewhat scarred by “how messed up her mom’s
For a couple of years, Leatrice was Daquann’s
regular baby sitter, meeting him at the bus stop after school and
looking after him until his mother, Sylvia Croker, Leatrice’s
aunt, got home from work. She was a taskmaster, said Mr. Redd.
“She was like, ‘Don’t play so much basketball.
Do your homework. Read books,’ ” he said. “She wanted to be a
nurse. I looked up to her because she had goals.”
Ms. Brewer is pictured in the 1999 Westbury
High School yearbook as a senior, smiling and wearing a festive
formal dress. There are no extracurricular activities listed under
her name, but relatives remember that for a couple of years she
had an after-school job with the maintenance department at the
She is absent from the 1996 and 1998 yearbooks,
and she wears a scowl in 1997, the year police records show she
was twice fined $150 for disorderly conduct.
Over the next few years she held several jobs,
including work as a filing clerk for a Hicksville law firm and a
sales assistant at a Kohl’s department store.
Sometimes she worked at fast-food restaurants
to supplement her income, other times as a housekeeper. Often,
said Teoni Maddox, a longtime friend, she held two jobs at once.
“Leatrice was moody, and she could be a little
‘off’ — one day friendly, the next day like she never knew you,”
Ms. Maddox said. “But I always thought it was because she was
always so busy.”
Then in 2002, Ms. Brewer met and had her first
baby with Ricky Ward, a man who grew up in the neighborhood, not
far from the white bungalow with a red roof where Ms. Brewer was
raised by her grandmother.
Relatives said that their relationship did not
last and that after giving birth to Jewell, Ms. Brewer suffered a
period of depression.
“ ‘I don’t know what to do,’ ” her cousin, Mr.
Redd, recalls her saying. “ ‘I wasn’t ready for this.’ ”
Police records confirm that it was a tough
year. Though details about the cases were unavailable, she was
charged with third-degree assault and second-degree criminal
contempt, and sentenced to three years’ probation.
In 2003, Ms. Brewer’s mother, with whom she had
remained close despite their many separations, died of cancer.
In her final years, Pearly Mae Mickens was a
familiar figure to the police officers who patrolled Prospect
Avenue, the main thoroughfare of New Cassel, sometimes
panhandling, and sometimes asking officers to take her to the
hospital because she was hearing voices.
That year, Ms. Brewer and a Queens man,
Innocent Demesyeux, began a relationship, which produced a second
child, Michael. The couple lived together off and on.
In between times, Ms. Brewer and her two
children resided at her grandmother’s house — an arrangement that
fell apart around 2006, after Ms. Brewer became pregnant by Mr.
Demesyeux a second time, and her grandmother asked her to leave.
County child welfare caseworkers helped Ms.
Brewer find the apartment at 819 Prospect Avenue, where her
children would die. Mary Curtis, the deputy county executive for
health and human services, said that Ms. Brewer also received
rental assistance, food stamps, a stipend from the federal Women,
Infants and Children program, and temporary help with day care.
Whatever help she got, family members say, the
move to 819 Prospect marked the beginning of a downward spiral
during which Ms. Brewer was alternately frantic with mothering and
supporting her children and absent from them.
Ms. Brewer went back to work, and with the help
of a baby sitter, continued to work after the birth of Innocent in
the summer of 2006. Family members, including her grandmother,
pleaded with Ms. Brewer to let the children live with them instead
of being cared for by a stranger.
“There was a big argument in the family,” said
Mr. Redd, the cousin. “But she wanted to prove to us that she
could make it. Being that her mom had all that stuff in her life,
she wanted to show that she was different.”
Nassau County records show that from 2003 until
last week, caseworkers from Child Protective Services investigated
nine complaints against Ms. Brewer brought by neighbors or members
of her own family who alleged that she was neglecting her
children, leaving them home unattended, or failing to send them to
The charges were deemed unfounded in six
instances and verified in three, after which Ms. Brewer had to
attend a class to improve her skills as a parent.
But her custody of the children was never in
jeopardy, Dr. Curtis said. “When we spoke to the kids, they were
not bruised, they looked well cared for, the house was clean,” Dr.
Curtis said. “There did not seem to be a threat to the children.”
Asked if caseworkers were qualified to
recognize mental instability, she said they probably were not, but
added, "Being mentally ill is not automatically grounds for
removing children from their mother."
The fathers of Ms. Brewer’s children thought
differently. Both Mr. Ward and Mr. Demesyeux went to Nassau County
Family Court to seek custody, claiming Ms. Brewer was mentally ill
and neglectful and may have been abusing drugs.
The police were frequently summoned to the
apartment after one father or the other tried to visit and
violence erupted with Ms. Brewer, who was 6 feet tall and weighed
about 200 pounds. Orders of protection were issued to all parties,
but no criminal charges were filed.
Among the factors contributing to the failure
of government to protect Ms. Brewer’s three children, officials
said last week, were privacy regulations. Police, mental health,
child protection and Family Court officials all had case files on
the family, Dr. Curtis said, yet none was in communication with
workers in the other agencies — a problem officials said they
would try to remedy.
Ms. Brewer stopped working sometime in the last
year. By some accounts, she was fired from her last job. Her
behavior became more strange. Visitors to the apartment often
found the children alone.
“You would ring the bell and the little girl
would say, ‘No, my mommy’s not home, come back later,’ ” Calvin
Cannon, a friend from the neighborhood, said.
Neighbors also noticed that Jewell was handling
more and more of her brothers’ care. “She would change the baby’s
diapers, wipe Michael’s nose, take care of the house, make sure
they didn’t play near the stove, all that kind of stuff,” said Ms.
Maddox, Ms. Brewer’s friend.
At Christmas, Ms. Brewer permitted Jewell to
spend the evening with her father, Mr. Ward, at a relative’s home
in Westbury. The relative, Mr. Brooks, Mr. Ward’s cousin, said Ms.
Brewer telephoned the house several times an hour to check on
Jewell and to find out when she would be returning home.
“She just called and called and called,” said
Mr. Brooks, 21.
Two days before the children were killed, Mr.
Demesyeux complained to Child Protective Services that while he
was visiting her home, Ms. Brewer was behaving bizarrely and
threatening to harm her children.
A caseworker was sent to investigate that day
but found no one home. A second caseworker, dispatched that night,
was also unable to get into the apartment. A night supervisor
scheduled another visit for Sunday, instead of ordering a
follow-up visit for Saturday; he was suspended without pay pending
a department investigation.
Two days after the children were killed,
Maebell Mickens, Ms. Brewer’s grandmother, visited her in the
detention wing of the medical center, where she was being held
Ms. Mickens later said, according to an article
in Newsday, that her granddaughter alternately denied and
acknowledged what she had done to the children. She quoted Ms.
Brewer, the child of Pearly Mae Mickens, as telling her, “The
voices took control, and I had to do it.”
This article was reported by Richard G. Jones,
Corey Kilgannon and Paul Vitello and written by Mr. Vitello.
Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.