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Children’s funeral marred by anger

Associated Press / April 26, 2011

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SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — Tensions erupted yesterday between families at a funeral service for three siblings who died when their mother drove their car into the Hudson River.

Gwendolen Green — a second cousin of the mother, LaShanda Armstrong — said too few of Armstrong’s relatives were allowed into the service, which was organized by the children’s father.

Green said she was “escorted out’’ of the private service at a Spring Valley funeral home after she stood up for her 17-year-old son who she said was “manhandled’’ when he tried to get in.

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

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

Michael O’Connor, a lawyer for Pierre, denied there was any restriction on guests from Armstrong’s side of the family. He said Armstrong’s relatives were simply asked to provide a list of guests for police and the funeral home.

Green said La’Shaun did not attend the service for his three siblings, Landen Pierre, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, whose first birthday would have been last week.

“It was too much for him,’’ she said. He had attended his mother’s service.

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

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

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