MINEOLA, N.Y. – Leatrice Brewer drowned her three young children in 2008 believing she was saving them from the deadly effects of voodoo. Afterward she tried to commit suicide twice, but failed.
Now the 33-year-old suburban New York woman who was found not guilty because of mental disease or defect in the deaths of her children, ages 1, 5 and 6, wants a portion of the children's $350,000 estate. Her attorneys say she shouldn't be subject to laws that bar convicts from profiting from their crimes.
Nassau County Surrogate's Court Judge Edward McCarty ruled Thursday that Brewer be taken from an upstate psychiatric facility to testify about her request next month.
Although the case would establish a precedent in New York if Brewer succeeds, she's not expected to see any money because of a $1.2 million lien against her for psychiatric counseling and other services she has received since her arrest, attorneys said.
Brewer admitted she drowned the children in the bathtub of her apartment in New Cassel, on Long Island about 20 miles east of New York City, in February 2008. She later placed the children's bodies on a bed and tried to kill herself by swallowing a concoction of household cleaning chemicals. When that suicide bid failed, she jumped out her second-story window but again survived.
Instead of facing trial on three murder counts in the children's deaths, Brewer pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect. Psychiatrists had determined she suffered a major depressive disorder and believed she killed the children to save them from the potentially fatal effects of voodoo.
Brewer is being kept at a state psychiatric hospital until psychiatrists determine she's no longer mentally ill.
New York's Son of Sam Law, named for the 1970s serial killer and amended in 2001, was designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes, such as by selling their stories to book publishers or moviemakers. The judge in Brewer's case, though, has noted the unique aspect — that Brewer wasn't convicted.
The case drew attention to Nassau County's social services agency, whose caseworkers visited Brewer's apartment two days before the killings and found no one home but neglected to schedule an immediate follow-up visit. Two social workers were later suspended.
Lawsuits against the county filed by the father of Brewer's 1-year-old son, Innocent Demesyeux, and 5-year-old son, Michael Demesyeux, were settled for $250,000. A lawsuit filed by the father of Brewer's 6-year-old daughter, Jewell Ward, was recently settled for $100,000.
The judge has scheduled a Nov. 6 hearing on the matter.