Friend: Woman Accused of Smothering Children was Loving Mother

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.

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