A day after a Newburgh, New York mom killed herself and her children by driving into the Hudson River, interviews with survivors reveal some clues about her emotional state — and the family problems she was struggling with.
The New York Daily News has a chilling account of Lashanda Armstrong's last minutes. According to her surviving son, ten-year-old Lashaun, she told her kids "I'm sorry, I'm going to do something crazy," and "If I'm going to die, you're going to die with me." But just before Lashaun escaped the sinking van, she grabbed his pantleg and said, "I made a mistake." Initial reports made it sound like Armstrong had intentionally let Lashaun out of the car, but it now appears that he slid out through a window and swam back to shore, where a neighbor found him and led him to a firehouse. As we now know, firefighters were unable to save his family.
So why did Lashanda Armstrong decide to end her life and those of her children? Speculation is flying — the AP spoke to a teacher at the children's day care center, who alluded to a possible fight between Armstrong and Jean Pierre, her boyfriend and the father of three of her kids. Says Hetty Minatee,
A couple weeks ago, she came in a little upset. She said, 'Miss Minatee, I don't want the father to pick the kids up or have any contact with them.' She said she was trying to get a court order so he could never see the kids again.
And while the AP says there was no record of domestic violence at Armstrong's house, neighbors tell the Daily News that Armstrong and Pierre fought a lot, mostly about Pierre's dalliances with other women. One neighbor said she had had an affair with Pierre last year, while Armstrong was pregnant with her youngest child. Teachers at the day care center also suggested that Armstrong felt overwhelmed with her responsibilities — said one, "The only thing she'd say was that she was so alone. She's a single parent. She takes great care of her kids, goes to school and works. She really needed a helping hand." Lohud.com alludes to financial problems — apparently Armstrong's car was repossessed when she lived in Haverstraw, NY before moving to Newburgh. And the Daily News spoke with psychologist Dr. Susan Coates, who says Armstrong probably suffered from postpartum psychosis after the birth of her daughter. Says Coates of this ailment, We need a mental health system that can pick it up quickly and treat it aggressively. Very few people that get that depressed get help on their own."
While any of these things — financial struggles, domestic arguments, the pressures of single parenthood, mental illness — could have contributed to Lashanda's awful decision, there's not yet a clear picture of exactly what triggered her crime. And if anything, today's more detailed reports show that while we can gather more information about a tragedy like this, that doesn't necessarily mean we have answers.
Little Time Between Call, Fatal NY River Plunge [CBS/AP]
'You're Going To Die With Me,' Lashanda Armstrong Told Kids Before Driving Minivan Into Hudson River [NY Daily News]
Lashanda Armstrong, Who Drowned Self & Kids In Hudson, Struggled With Mental Issues, Stress: Experts [NY Daily News]
Lashanda Armstrong's Former Haverstraw Neighbors Shocked By Tragedy [Lohud.com]