Loved Ones Mourn Mom Who Killed Self, Kids

By Pei-Sze Cheng and Katherine Creag
|  Thursday, Apr 21, 2011  |  Updated 5:53 PM EDT
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Photos: Boy Escapes as Mom Drives into River

AP

Mourners comfort one another outside the church where the funeral of LaShanda Armstrong is held, in Spring Valley, N.Y., Thursday, April 21, 2011.

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The woman who killed herself and three of her children when she drove into the Hudson River was mourned Thursday during a service where the reverend described aching hearts and confused minds over what she did in the final moments of her life.

LaShanda Armstrong was remembered at the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley, N.Y., where she laid in a closed white casket, surrounded by flowers and photos. Her dead children, whose funeral is set for next week, were represented by three balloons.

Rev. Weldon McWilliams Jr. recalled the pain and endless questions about what happened the night of April 12, when she plunged her minivan into the river, drowning Landen, 5, Lance, 2, and Laianna, 11 months. Her 10-year-old son, La'Shaun, escaped out a window and swam to shore.

"All of us say she shouldn't have done this, but we weren't there ... you don't know what you would have done," McWilliams said.

La'Shaun "was very strong" at the funeral, a family friend said.

"He cried some, just a little," said Beverly Cox of Westbury, who sang several gospel hymns at the service. "But that's only natural."

The passerby who found the 10-year-old survivor and brought him to a firehouse on the night of the tragedy was also at the funeral. She said the family had reached out to her.

A cousin said outside the private service that LaShanda's relatives and friends were "grieving and mourning."

A joint funeral had been planned for the three children and their mother, but their father said Wednesday that they would have a separate service and burial next week.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Jean H. Pierre said in a statement that he had decided it was best for the children. They will be buried in Congers, N.Y., next week.

The youngest, Laianna, would have turned 1 on Wednesday. Relatives sang "Happy Birthday" to her at the river.

Pierre did not attend the funeral.

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