JANUARY 30, 2006 - Posted at 7:43 a.m. CST
DE QUEEN, AR - A friend of a 43-year-old De Queen woman whose three young children were smothered said she had never seen Paula Eleazar Mendez raise a hand to the youngsters. But Mendez is in jail today, facing charges in Saturday's slaying of her 8-year-old son and six-year-old twins, a girl and a boy.
M. Rocio Maya, who attended St. Barbara Catholic Church with Mendez, said after Mass yesterday that she had only known Mendez for a few months, but never saw Mendez strike her children. She said Mendez, who moved to De Queen last summer from New York City to provide her children with a safer environment, seemed very loving and protective of her children.
A next-door neighbor told the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette newspaper that Mendez had learned on a recent trip to New York that her husband wanted a divorce. Javier Garcia said Mendez was depressed, and wept often for several weeks after the trip.
Mendez is scheduled for arraignment this morning at the Sevier County Courthouse in De Queen.