Mother Accused of Smothering Children Remorseful, Priest Says

January 29, 2006 - Posted at 3:49 p.m. CST

DE QUEEN, Ark. (AP) _ A priest says the De Queen woman accused

of smothering her three young children is profoundly sorry and is

seeking forgiveness.

Forty-three-year-old Paula Eleazar Mendez is in the Sevier

County jail today after she was treated at a hospital for ingesting

a toxic substance. Officers sent to her home yesterday in response

to a telephone call from the children's father in New York found

the bodies of the children lying side by side in a bed. The mother

collapsed and was taken to the hospital.

Reverend Salvador Marquez-Munoz of Saint Barbara Catholic Church

said before entering the parish hall to say mass that he had

visited with Mendez at the hospital.

He said she asked for prayers and forgiveness because she is

realizing how much she has hurt everyone.

The bodies of eight-year-old Elvis and six-year-old twins,

Samanta and Samuel, were sent to the state Crime Lab in Little Rock

for autopsies to determine if the children had been given any

poison or had been smothered as their mother told police.

Mendez is to be arraigned tomorrow in circuit court in either De

Queen or Murfreesboro. Authorities are waiting for the father to

arrive from New York.

The priest and others who knew Mendez described her as a quiet,

devout woman concerned about her children's welfare. They said she

had few friends in the largely Hispanic community and was not

working, while her husband was supporting the family with a job in

New York City.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)