Apr 26, 2011

SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. (AP) — Tensions erupted Monday at a private funeral service for three New York children who died after their mother drove their car into the Hudson River.

A relative of the mother walked out of the small funeral home in Spring Valley saying, "I don't care. This side of the family matters."

Gwendolen Green, a second cousin of the mother, LaShanda Armstrong, said she was kicked out of the service after she stood up for her 17-year-old son who was being "manhandled."

"The last straw was when they messed with my child," she said.

Armstrong, 25, loaded her four children into a minivan on April 12 after an argument with the father of the three youngest. She drove down a boat ramp in Newburgh into the river. The oldest child, a 10-year-old La'Shaun Armstrong, crawled out a window and survived.

Armstrong's funeral was Thursday. A joint funeral had been planned for the mother and children, but the dead children's father, Jean Pierre, said last week that he would hold a separate service for the children. Armstrong's relatives were angry with the decision.

Mourners arriving for Monday's service were checked against a list before they were allowed inside.

Green said she was not on the list, but she managed to get in.

"You're not going to keep me from going in and seeing my family," she said.

Green said La'Shaun did not attend the service for his three siblings, Landen Pierre, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, who would have turned 1 year old last week.

"It was too much for him," she said.

The mourners were divided into factions inside the funeral home, Green said.

"You could cut the tension with a knife," she said.

She said Laianna was wearing a white dress "like an Easter dress" and the boys were wearing dark suits.

The three small caskets were loaded into a waiting hearse after the service.

La'Shaun told the woman who found him after he freed himself from the minivan that Armstrong was distraught over Pierre's cheating.

Green said Pierre was "carrying on" during his children's funeral.

She added, "You have to do for your children before they die."  source


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