'Complete shock': Man mourns daughter, 4, drowned by 'loving mother' on Coney Island beach with 2 siblings
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: A father of one of the three children who drowned to their deaths on Coney Island beach on early Monday, September 12, has spoken up after the tragedy. Shamir Small, father of Liliana Stephen, has revealed that he thought the four-year-old was in safe hands when she was with her mother Erin Merdy and siblings Zachary, 7, and three-month-old Oliver.
Speaking of his ex-girlfriend, Small told The New York Daily News, “At one time, she was a great mother who loved her kids. I didn’t see this coming. This is a complete shock.” He also went on to note that “brokenhearted is one way to put it, but it’s far more than that.”
The man is reportedly not the father of the other children who died earlier this week. Liliana was his youngest one. “She was the baby. She was the youngest of my four,” the heartbroken dad claimed, before explaining: “I just don’t know what happened. Me and her didn’t have the best relationship. When it was great, it was great. But when it was bad, it was bad.”
Calling the little one “a daddy’s girl,” Small, who works as the MTA bus operator, added, “She would wait for me to come home from work. The last thing we did together was watch JoJo Siwa. She loved her music videos. She loved to laugh and she loved to dance. She loved her father.”
The man did not say much about Liliana’s other siblings, however, mentioned that Oliver was the first child of his dad. He stated, “I’m 100% sure Oliver was loved by his father.”
This comes as reports said that Merdy was probably a patient of postpartum depression. Also, after the children drowned, the mother apparently informed her relatives about it and was discovered looking “despondent” by the law enforcement officials.
“The mother was soaking wet. Whether she had been out in the rain or whether she had been in the water, again, is all speculative at this point. She was wet, she was barefoot, and she was not communicative to the officers,” NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said as reported by The New York Post. It has been said that the 30-year-old woman has been slapped with three counts of murder charges after a medical examiner declared the children’s deaths as homicides.
Meanwhile, Merdy’s aunt, Dine Stephen, has expressed her grief after the horrific event. She said, “We’re devastated. They were kids. They were adorable kids. It’s someone who was struggling, and no one knew how bad the struggle was.”
Stephen added, “In this family we do have a history of mental illness to varying degrees. A few of us have battled with bipolar disorder, but I didn’t know her mental struggles. I just knew she was trying to find a way for her children, a way to get on her feet. She loved her children. She loved her children very much. It was the mental issues that took over.”
Besides, Alfred Brown, Zachary’s football coach, told The New York Post, “I’m in school with them, I’m on the field with them — I’m damn near their uncle. It’s hard right now … I love every kid that plays for me like my own. Zach was a very bubbly kid who was full of life. Just full of energy, you know, you’d have to say, ‘Enough, enough.’”
“From what I know, she was a good mother. She was always with her children, always with her babies. You never know what people are going through. People mask their depression very well,” Brown asserted.