Two people are facing multiple charges, including murder, in the death of a 1-year-old boy while he was in daycare in the New York City borough of the Bronx.
Grei Mendez, 36, stayed silent as she was walked from a police station in handcuffs Sunday.
Mendez owns Divino Niño Daycare, where one-year-old Nicholas Dominici died and three other children were hospitalizedafter what authorities say was suspected opioid exposure. First responders had found the babies in cardiac arrest and administered Narcan.
“It’s a tragedy for the children. It’s a tragedy for her because I don’t believe she’s involved in what happened, so it’s really bad all around for everybody,” said Andres Aranda, Mendez’s attorney.
Mendez was arraigned Sunday night and denied bail. She faces several charges, along with 41-year-old Carlisto Acevedo Brito, Mendez’s husband’s cousin.
Mendez was renting a room to Acevedo Brito for $200 a month.
“She just didn’t know. She rented a room to somebody, and she didn’t know what was going on,” Aranda said.
In court, officials said one kilo of fentanyl was found in a closet at the daycare, along with two kilo presses, which are used to process drugs. A third kilo press was found in Acevedo Brito’s bedroom, authorities added..
At least one surviving child tested positive for fentanyl.
“The way those kids got hurt I think is something that nobody, nobody deserves that. No mother, no grandmother,” neighbor Joanne Martinez said.
“As a father, you always trust other people to take care of your kids when you go to work. This is the last thing you could possibly think would happen to your son,” neighbor Hailey Rivera said.
This weekend, Nicholas’s grieving parents told CBS News New York the daycare was recommended to them by a community center but was rumored to have been renting out rooms.
“If I had known what would have happened,” his mother said in Spanish, “I would not have taken him there.”
The daycare had passed a city inspection as recently as this month.
“The city’s gonna have to step up more and go through every daycare and investigate them good because the way things happened in there, I don’t think it was right,” Martinez said.
The two suspects are each facing more than 10 charges, including murder, criminal possession of a narcotic and endangering the welfare of a child.
Mendez’s next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday morning. Acevido Brito is expected to be arraigned soon.
The medical examiner has yet to determine Nicholas’ official cause of death.