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Battered Girl's Death Touches New Yorkers as Rites Are Held

November 12, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — People who never knew Elizabeth Steinberg in life today mourned the battered 6-year-old at her funeral as a symbol of "innocence struck down."

"There's a particular pain in the death of Lisa," the Rev. Kevin O'Brien said. "Innocence and suffering should not go together."

"There is a great sadness across this city," said O'Brien, who conducted the joint Roman Catholic-Jewish service with Rabbi Dennis Math.

Elizabeth was found Nov. 2, beaten and comatose in the Greenwich Village apartment of a couple who claimed they had adopted her. The couple, Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum, have been charged with murder. Steinberg is a lawyer and his wife, also an apparent victim of battering, once was a successful editor of children's books.

Elizabeth's biological mother, Michelle Launders, who won a court fight to bury her daughter, sat surrounded by family members during the service.

Earlier, people lined up at the funeral home today to pay their final respects to Elizabeth. By the time of the service, more than 1,000 people had come by.

Launders, 26, was granted the right to bury her daughter by Surrogate Court Judge Marie Lambert.

At Launders' request, the child was identified on her death certificate as "Baby Girl Launders, also known as Lisa."

Launders said she paid Steinberg $500 to arrange for her baby's adoption by a well-to-do Catholic family but had no idea that he and Nussbaum would keep the child.

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