April 14, 2011— -- A woman who drove her minivan into the frigid waters of the Hudson River killing herself and her three small children changed her mind at the last minute, throwing the car into reverse and admitting her mistake to her 10-year-old son who swam to safety.
Today the boy, Leshaun Armstrong, returned to dock from where his mother drove into the water. He was accompanied by members of his family.
Minutes after an argument with her boyfriend and father of her three youngest children Tuesday night, Leshanda Armstrong posted an erie message on Facebook, packed her four children into her minivan, and headed for the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y.
Her Facebook message, posted at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday, said, "I'm so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I'm gonna do.... This Is It!!!!" During the ride to the river, her son says she told her children, "You're all going to die with me."
Despite her decision to kill her family, evidence from the scene and interviews with Lashaun indicate that she changed her mind once the vehicle began filling with water.
"I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake," Armstrong told her oldest son, according to Maeve Ryan, a good Samaritan who found the soaking-wet child and brought him to a nearby firehouse.
"She tried to reverse the car out, but at that time it was too late," Ryan told the Associated Press. "He said, 'Mommy, I'm going to go get help,' and she said, 'OK.' And that was the last he heard from his mother."
When police were able to pull the car out of the water Wednesday, they noticed that the gearshift was in reverse, said Lt. Bruce Campbell, a member of the dive team and department spokesman.
Leshaun Armstrong told Ryan that his mother was holding onto all four children, including two boys aged 5 and 2 and 11-month-old daughter as the car hit the water. As water rushed in through the windows and the car sank in 8 feet of water 25 yards from shore, Leshaun broke free, crawled out a window and swam to safety.
Police also said there were indications that the mother had unbuckled the children and may have been holding them together.
"We pulled the vehicle out and all of the water rushed out. The three children and the mother were all located towards the back, which is what you would expect pulling it out nose first," said Campbell.
None of the children had been buckled in, he said.
Armstrong's last moments were filled with terror, regret and tenderness.
The boy said that just before reaching the water, Armstrong made a final cell phone call to her own mother asking forgiveness.
And as he struggled to get out of the car, Leshaun said his mother kissed his head and gave him her blessing.
"You're in my prayers," she said, according to Ryan.
Mom Who Drowned Her Kids in River Tried to Reverse the Car
Leshaun, who is currently staying with relatives, told Ryan he felt guilty that his young siblings had died because he never taught them to swim.
Minutes before Armstrong left with her kids driving to boat ramp, her aunt called Newburgh police to report the woman and her boyfriend, Jean Pierre, had been having a fight. By the time police arrived at the home, the women and her children were gone.