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Memorial Service Held For Four Drowned Children

August 12, 1989

TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) _ Hundreds of friends and relatives attended a memorial service Saturday for four children who drowned when the family station wagon plunged into a river, but the youngsters’ mother was in seclusion and their father in jail charged with their murders.

About 500 people crowded into a suburban Detroit church to say farewell to Brian DeLisle, 8, and his sisters: Melissa, 4; Kadie, 2; and Emily, 10 months.

″Brian was probably my best friend on the team. He used to tell a lot of jokes,″ 10-year-old Clinton Runyon, who played on a baseball team with Brian this summer, said after the service.

The skinny, short-haired youth said he nearly broke down during the one- hour memorial Mass at St. Alfred Roman Catholic Church.

″My mom started crying and I was afraid I would start bawling, but I held it in,″ he said.

Wyandotte police say Lawrence DeLisle, 28, of Lincoln Park, confessed to pressing down the car’s accelerator and driving into the Detroit River on Aug. 3 ″to be rid of his present burdens.″ He was described as pressed by money problems.

Police say he intended to kill his children and wife, Suzanne, 32, by driving the car through a barrier on a road that ended at the river in the suburb south of Detroit.

Both parents escaped from the sinking station wagon in which DeLisle’s father committed suicide 18 months earlier. Passing boaters tossed them life preservers; divers pulled the children from the submerged car about an hour later.

The Rev. Walter Ptak asked mourners not to prejudge the tragedy.

″We gather here this morning in such large numbers in an act of faith in our God, not to point fingers of blame or to prejudge what has happened, but to give thanks to God for the gift of the children’s lives,″ said Ptak, assistant pastor at St. Alfred’s.

Mrs. DeLisle wasn’t up to attending the memorial service for her children, Ptak said. ″It was a family decision that it was better if she didn’t attend.″ The remains of the four children were cremated Monday.

Eleanor Klauza of Allen Park said after the service that she doesn’t know the DeLisles, but attended the service to show the family she cared.

″If he didn’t want the children, he should have given them away,″ she said.

But Dorothy Weatherly, 38, Clinton Runyon’s mother, said, ″I don’t believe he could have done it because of the way he was around those children.″

DeLisle, a sales manager at a Lincoln Park tire store, was ordered held without bond Friday on four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

The suspect first said a leg cramp caused him to jam the accelerator pedal, powering the car through a barricade and into the river. But Thursday, he admitted the crash was deliberate, said Wyandotte Detective Sgt. Daniel Galeski.

Mrs. DeLisle said she tried to stop the car by turning off the ignition and shifting gears before the car struck the barrier.

Relatives and acquaintances said DeLisle had trouble saving money and had amassed $13,000 in debts during the last 10 years. They said he worried about how he would provide for his family on his $33,000-a-year salary.

DeLisle remained silent during the 10-minute hearing and a plea of innocent was entered on his behalf. Twenty-seventh District Judge Lawrence Emmert ordered him held without bond until another court appearance Thursday.

First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Attempted murder has a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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