New York Daily News: BROOKLYN – The two children’s caskets were flanked by star-shaped balloons, with little Liliana Merdy wearing a tiara inside one and her brother Zachary holding a toy police car in the other.
Heartbroken family and friends of the slain siblings gathered Thursday for an emotional Brooklyn wake remembering the Coney Island kids lost three days earlier when their mentally ill mother allegedly drowned the pair alongside their 3-month-old baby brother.
“He loved his sister,” the boy’s father Derrick Merdy said after the wake. “Always looking out for his sister. I just don’t know what to say. There are no words that could … do him justice for what he really was. I can’t express it. Like you met my son, I mean, you’ll love him.
“To know him was a real privilege,” the dad continued after spending extra time at his son’s casket. “In seven years of life, he changed my life forever. He really did.”
The mourners, numbering about 100, assembled at the Caribe Funeral Home in Brooklyn for the sad sendoff. Huge photos of both children stood on easels between the caskets — white for 4-year-old Liliana, blue for 7-year-old Zachary — with the little girl flanked by stuffed animals.
“Loving family,” read a large floral arrangement placed nearby, with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez among those mourners offering their condolences to Zachary’s dad. There was no sign of accused murderer Erin Merdy’s family among the mourners that also included Shamir Small, father of Liliana.
A funeral for Zachary will be held at some point in Virginia, where the little boy will be buried with his dad’s relatives. Zachary spent the last summer of his life with his father in Virginia before returning to his mom in Coney Island.
A Monday funeral was set for his sister Liliana, while arrangements for the funeral of infant Oliver, who was born in May, remained unclear.
The mother, charged Wednesday with three counts of murder, remained under psychiatric care while awaiting arraignment for the chilling killings. Erin Merdy told police about a “dream” where she walked the children into the water when asked by investigators about what happened that night.
Police said daughter Liliana’s bruised body indicated Merdy held the little girl under the water.
Zachary’s grandmother on his father’s side broke down in tears after sharing her recollections of the boy and his sister, recalling how she took care of Liliana at one point when their mother became ill.
“She is just as important to me as Zachary because she’s his sister,” said the grandmother, addressing the girl’s father. “I loved your daughter. I just wanted you to know that.”
The grandmother, before her husband came up to console her, remembered Zachary as “so special. I will miss him every day. He was very loving. He was like his father.”
The mother was taken to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn after the killings and the timing for her first court appearance remained uncertain. According to police, there were no warning signs of imminent danger to the children before their deadly walk to the beach and no apparent motive for the killings.
“I don’t want to say much about her,” said Derrick Merdy about the accused killer. “Because I don’t want to give no more publicity than she already deserves. I don’t want my son to be remembered being murdered by his mother. He was so much more than that.”
Autopsies indicated all three kids were drowned before the incoherent parent wandered to nearby Brighton Beach, where she told relatives “the babies are gone.”
A Thursday evening event with candle-lighting and balloons to remember the children was planned on the Coney Island boardwalk following practice for the youth football team where Zachary played last season.
Top Feature Photo: A screen inside the Brooklyn funeral home shows the pictures and names of the three victims – Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News