GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – A woman handcuffed to her hospital bed stared blankly into space as her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to charges that she murdered her three young children by drowning them in the bathtub.
Leatrice Brewer, her eyes puffy as though she had been crying, said nothing during the bedside arraignment Tuesday at Nassau University Medical Center, where she was taken after jumping out of her second-story apartment window Sunday.
Deborah Blum, a defense attorney from the Legal Aid Society, said during the proceeding that Brewer "did love these children very much until this recent event." She declined further comment.
When officers arrived at Brewer's apartment building Sunday, they found the bodies of her two sons, Michael Demesyeux, 5, and Innocent Demesyeux, 1, and her daughter, Jewell Ward, 6, lying together in the same bed in their night clothes.
The discovery prompted an investigation into the county Social Services agency, and on Tuesday, a supervisor with 19 years experience was suspended without pay.
County officials said he failed to properly follow up on a complaint from one of the children's fathers last Friday.
The father of the two boys told reporters he had been battling Brewer for custody for more than a year, and County Executive Tom Suozzi confirmed that the man had called authorities on Friday complaining that the woman might harm her children.
Suozzi said case workers went to the Brewer home twice on Friday, but found no one there and left business cards behind. The supervisor scheduled a return visit on Sunday despite having staff available Saturday to follow up on the complaint, Suozzi said.
Labor union CSEA Local 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta complained that the supervisor was suspended without due process.
"We feel that this worker was unfairly made as a scapegoat in this situation," he said.
Suozzi said nine complaints about the 27-year-old mother were filed with the agency but only three of them were determined to be worthy of follow-up. In each of those cases, Brewer was referred to other agencies for treatment, but Suozzi said it is not clear what, if anything, happened after that.
He said a preliminary review found that circumstances never rose to the level where officials deemed it necessary to remove the children from Brewer's home.
During the arraignment, District Court Judge David Goodsell ordered Brewer held without bail pending her next court appearance, tentatively scheduled for Thursday.