NEW CASSEL, N.Y. – Police responding to a domestic emergency call on Sunday found three small children dead in a bed and then tracked down their mother and arrested her.
The mother, Leatrice Brewer, was charged with multiple counts of murder, Nassau County police said.
"It was a disturbing scene," Detective Lt. Kevin Smith said.
Officers were met at the two-story home by a woman who directed them to a top-floor apartment, where they found the children, Jewell Ward, 6, Michael Demesyeux, 5, and Innocent Demesyeux, 1. The 27-year-old single mother wasn't home but was found later, said police, who wouldn't reveal where they arrested her.
The county medical examiner's office was trying to determine the causes of the children's deaths. Police wouldn't discuss how they think the children died.
Neighbors said Brewer, who cared for the children alone, had been overwhelmed. One neighbor, Cornisha Robinson, said she saw her last week pushing an empty stroller in the street and wondered where the children were.
"She neglected them," Robinson said. "She used to leave them in the house all the time by themselves."
But relatives and friends said Brewer loved the children, whom they called "wonderful." They asked people to pray for her.
"If I had any idea that it was this bad for her, you know, I would have reached out and tried to intervene," said Suzanne Blissett, Jewell's godmother.
Blissett, crying, said Jewell was "amazing," and she called her "God's gift."
Jewell's father, Ricky Ward, said he had tried to get custody of her but child welfare officials had rebuffed him. The father of the two boys had a similar tale.
Brewer's brother Robert McCord defended her.
"My sister's not crazy," he said. "She's not ballistic. This is a shock to all of us."
Brewer was taken to a hospital for evaluation and observation. She was to be arraigned Monday.