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Newburgh case leaves many questions


Newburgh, NY – Family and friends filled a church in the lower Hudson Valley Thursday, for the funeral of a Newburgh woman who died last week, along with her three children, after driving into the Hudson River. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry has more on an incident that has left many still seeking answers

Many have speculated as to why Lashanda Armstrong, the 25-year-old mother of four, packed her children, ages 10, 5, 2, and 11 months, into a van, and drove away from her home last Tuesday. Minutes later, her van was in the Hudson River, and her 10-year-old son, who was able to crawl out of a window, was the only survivor.

Family and friends filled a Spring Valley, Rockland County church Thursday, where Armstrong was remembered. A day earlier, her family gathered near the waterfront in Newburgh, to remember the youngest of the children, who would've turned one this week.

The ten-year-old boy has received the support of family, social services officials, and a community shaken by the tragedy. Dr. Linda Dunlap is the chair of the Psychology Department at Marist College. Like many, the story of the boy is what stands out to Dunlap. She says she cannot think of a case in which a child has gone through this type of tragedy. She says while it can put a lot of burden on the child, there's also some hope.

Dunlap adds that the key now is to learn from the incident, and to not be judgmental.

Many in the mental health field are pointing to lessons that can be learned from a case like this. Dr. Alan Bernstein is the Chief Medical Officer for the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center in Newburgh. He says there are clear lessons that can be taken, despite the distinctive nature of this tragedy.

The mourning process will continue Monday for the family, as the three children will be laid to rest. The three were the children of Jean Pierre, who has been at the center of much of the speculation surrounding this case. Neighbors have said they heard Pierre outside of Armstrong's Newburgh home shortly before the woman drove the van into the river. On Wednesday, through an attorney, Pierre released a public statement for the first time, saying he's been inaccurately portrayed as being directly responsible for the tragedy. The District Attorney in Orange County has stated publicly that based on the investigation into the case, there is no one who could be held criminally liable.