A worried woman accused of drowning her own children in the waters of Coney Island is no monster, one of the children’s father said on a touching trip on Monday.
“Contrary to what happened, she was loved by her mother,” said Shamir Small’s grieving dad after the funeral of his 4-year-old daughter Liliana Stephen, one of three siblings killed early September 12.
“I don’t care what nobody says, what she did was horrible, but she herself is not a monster.”
Small said he preferred to remember the way his baby girl lived rather than dwell on how she and her brothers died.
Liliana died along with her 7-year-old brother Zachary Merdy and 3-month-old brother Oliver Bondarev when their mother, 30-year-old Erin Merdy, recently hospitalized for postpartum depression, took them for a walk to the beach and returned alone.
The children, each with different fathers, had separate funerals. The first was for Liliana, who was buried in a diadem and a gleaming pink dress in a white coffin taken from Brooklyn’s Caribe Funeral Home by distraught relatives of the women.
Small remembered his daughter as Daddy’s daughter who, although she spent little time with her father, made every moment special.
Small remembered a recent visit to Labor Day that was engraved on his heart. They hadn’t seen each other in a while, and meeting again was valuable.
“Someone said, ‘This is Daddy,’ recalls Small. – She said, “This is Daddy?” This was it. It was on my tail all day. All she needed was a little verification of who I was, and she was on top of me all the time. “
A large photo of Liliana Stephen in the hallway of the funeral home showed a beaming little girl in a T-shirt with a heart print on it, with both hands on one hip.
White, pink, and silver helium balloons in the shape of a star and one with the words “I love you” floated above the coffin.
“I remember the last time I saw Zachary and Liliana,” said my aunt, who did not want to be replaced, after the service.
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“Haven’t seen them in a while and it was so funny because when I saw them – I didn’t see them very often – she, Zach and a few other little cousins were dancing and all. It was funny. They were like a circus with three circles around me.
“I left after the day I was with them, feeling so good and happy that I saw them and spent this time with them. I just want everyone to know what a wonderful, beautiful little girl she was. “
Authorities say Merda’s mom killed her daughter by keeping the helpless girl under the waves. Liliana was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital less than an hour later.
Merdy, although struggling with mental illness, had no history of abuse of her children, and there were no reports of domestic abuse involving her children, city officials said.
But there was no mention of that Monday among the pictures, the balloons and the story of the Kool-Aid smiling kid.
“Please remember my daughter not for how she left, but for how she stayed,” said Small. “Liliana was a four-year-old princess who loved to dress up in different costumes. She definitely loved to dance, gymnastics, ballet, she loves performing for me.
“Lily was Daddy’s little girl who would keep ordering her father out when she saw him,” said Small. “Zachary was really determined what he wanted, he would walk around the neighborhood if he didn’t get it. I’ve never actually met Oliver, but I’m sorry for what happened to him.
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