‘Depraved’: Bronx day care operator held without bail after 1-year-old dies following fentanyl exposure
Written by ABC Audio All Rights Reserved on September 18, 2023
(NEW YORK) — The operator of a New York City day care and her tenant have been held without bail following the “reckless, depraved” death of a 1-year-old boy after several children were exposed to fentanyl.
Nicholas Dominici, 1, died after he was exposed to the opioid at a Bronx day care on Friday, officials said. Three other young children were hospitalized.
Day care operator Grei Mendez and tenant Carlisto Acevedo Brito were arrested on charges including murder, manslaughter and assault.
At their Sunday night arraignments, the judge alleged Mendez and Brito were both flight risks.
The judge cited Mendez’s lack of citizenship, ties to the Dominican Republic and the seriousness of the charges leveled against her, which carry a potential of life in prison.
Mendez’s attorney said she was unaware drugs were being stored in her day care by Brito, her husband’s cousin, to whom she was renting a room for $200 a week.
“Her only crime was renting her room to someone who had a kilo,” attorney Andres Aranda said. “There is no evidence that she did anything but care properly for these children.”
The judge said Brito is a Dominican Republic national who is in the country illegally and is also a flight risk.
Prosecutors said the kilo of fentanyl was found in a hallway closet outside Brito’s room and that Mendez participated in the “reckless, depraved act” by renting him the room in the day care. Drug production equipment was also found inside the day care, police said.
Police believe the children inhaled fentanyl particles during daylong exposure to the drug on Friday.
Authorities are also seeking Mendez’s husband for questioning.
Detectives have learned that Mendez talked to her husband several times in the immediate aftermath of Friday afternoon’s tragedy.
Authorities have also recovered video of Mendez’s husband and other people fleeing the day care with bags during the initial confusion.
The day care, for children between 6 weeks and 12 years old, opened in January and just passed a surprise visit from city inspectors last week with no violations found, officials said.
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