Family Planning Funeral For LaShanda Armstrong, Children Drowned In Minivan
NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)– Flowers, balloons and stuffed animals marked a spot by the Hudson River where 25-year-old LaShanda Armstrong drove a minivan with her four children into the water.
Relatives were planning funerals for Armstrong and her children: 11-month-old daughter Laianna, 5-year-old son Lance, and 2-year-old son Landon.
The sole survivor of the tragedy is undergoing counseling and won’t be back in school anytime soon.
LeShaun Armstrong’s family told CBS 2 that he’s not talking much about the night his mother and siblings died, but that the community is working hard to help him heal, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
Ten-year-old LeShaun found refuge in the home of his great aunt, Angela Gilliam. She said she knows what he needs.
“Love…a lot of it,” she said. “He went through a tragedy.”
LaShaun managed to escape the sinking van through a window. His family was trying to keep his mind off the horror of Tuesday night.
“Shaun is great, he’s coming along,” said Angela Gilliam, LaShanda’s aunt.
He told family members that his mother told the children they were going to die. He said she then changed her mind at the last moment, but it was too late.
“He’s not opening up right now, and I’m not forcing him to say anything right now,” Gilliam said. “Let him be a little boy, let him come out here and play, try to get his mind off what happened.”
“He’s doing very good but he’s mentioned it, about he will never forget the incident, what happened. And he wishes that he could have told his brothers how to swim,” the boy’s great grandmother, Pearl Posey, said.
LaShanda’s mother, Datrice, was numb with grief as she spoke about the last conversation with her daughter, moments before she drove the minivan into the river.
“I’m still hurting. I will be forever hurting for the rest of my life,” she said. ”She said she was sorry.”
“I can’t hear nothing no more from them. I can’t see them no more. I can’t hold them no more. I can’t do none of that,” she said.
LaShanda posted on her Facebook page a half hour before the murder-suicide: “I’m so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I’m gonna do… This is it!”
After escaping the vehicle, LaShaun swam to shore and flagged down a passing car, giving the driver a chilling account of what happened.
“Before she went into the water, she managed to get into the backseat and held all the kids at once and said, ‘If we’re going to die, we’re going to die together’,” said Good Samaritan Meave Ryan.
A district attorney says there will likely be no charges filed in the case.
Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips said Friday that no one but Lashanda Armstrong is responsible for the deaths.
Friends of Armstrong said she was distraught over a history of infidelities by the father of her three youngest children, CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reports.
Thursday morning, her sister said she had been acting strange and paranoid over the past few weeks.
“She was talking to me about how she felt someone was watching her, she felt like there was pages of her diary missing the lights in her house were flickering on and off,” sister Darice Armstrong said.
“I’ve known her to make mistakes but not like that, not take her kids out. She loved her kids,” said Angela Gilliam, LaShanda’s aunt.
“I thank God for the time I had with her and those kids,” Posey said.
“Question is we’ll never know or understand why, but all I’m just saying is just pray with us while we go through this difficult time,” Datrice said.
Family asked that any donations be made to First Baptist Church in Spring Valley.