Judge Order Independent Autopsies in De Queen Child Slayings

FEBRUARY 3, 2006 - Posted at 4:13 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A judge has ordered independent autopsies be done in New York City on three children killed in Arkansas, putting their burials indefinitely on hold.

Eleazar Paula Mendez of De Queen faces three capital murder counts in the deaths of her three children, seven-year-old Elvis and five-year-old twins Samantha and Samuel.  Police say she smothered the children after becoming distraught over marital problems.  Officials also say she may also have poisoned them before taking a toxic substance herself in a suicide attempt.

Circuit Judge Ted Capeheart granted a request by Mendez's attorneys Thursday and ordered that a New York physician be allowed to conduct an independent autopsy.

The state medical examiner's office has already concluded that the children were smothered.  Toxicology results are pending.

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