- Last Friday, a 1-year-old child died after possibly consuming fentanyl at a New York daycare.
- Authorities investigating the opioid case found nearly two pounds of fentanyl worth about $7,000 at the Bronx daycare.
- The center’s owner, Grei Mendez, said she had no knowledge of the drugs, but pointed out that Carlist Acevedo Brito, who rents one of her rooms in the apartment, could be responsible.
A package containing fentanyl worth thousands of dollars was discovered inside a New York daycare where a 1-year-old died from exposure to toxic opioids last week , police and city officials said.
The owner of the daycare, however, maintained that she was not aware of the presence of this very powerful drug, which sickened three other young children, including an 8-month-old girl who tested positive for fentanyl.
Drug residue was found under a rug where the children had been napping, New York Police Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said at a news conference Monday evening.
Grei Mendez, who ran the Divino Niño daycare out of a Bronx apartment, pleaded not guilty Sunday to murder charges related to the death of Nicholas Dominici. A man who rented a room inside the apartment, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, is awaiting trial on the same charges.
CHILDREN AT NEW YORK DAYCARE POSSIBLY USING FENTANYL, 1 DEAD, 3 HOSPITALIZED: REPORT
Police said they recovered about a kilogram of fentanyl, along with a press device used to combine the drug with other narcotics, from a hallway closet connected to the apartment. A second press was found inside the next room Brito occupied, according to a criminal complaint.
“We are not going to allow this incident to happen and ignore it as just another day, another tragedy in the city,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said at the news conference.
He expressed frustration with adults who would bring fentanyl anywhere with children, noting that ingesting even a tiny amount of pure fentanyl could kill an adult.
“It’s just complete madness,” he said.
Mendez’s attorney, Andres Aranda, said his client lived above the daycare and rented a room from Brito, her husband’s cousin, for $200 a month.
New York allows in-home day care for a small number of children, provided it is licensed and inspected.
“Apparently when the daycare wasn’t open, people were coming in and out of the apartment,” Aranda said.
Friday was a “normal day” at daycare, with Mendez taking the children upstairs, reading to them and cooking for them, then putting them to sleep, he said. But when Dominici didn’t wake up from her nap, she became terrified, calling 911 and screaming to call the neighbors, her attorney said.
Mendez, 36, who also works as a home health aide, was sent to Rikers Island without bail following an arraignment Sunday evening. A message left with Brito’s attorney was not immediately returned.
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The daycare opened in January this year. It passed both inspections, authorities said, including a surprise visit by inspectors on September 6.
When emergency responders arrived at the apartment Friday afternoon, they found Dominici, along with an 8-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy, showing signs of opioid intoxication. Doctors administered Narcan, an anti-overdose medication, to all three children, helping to counter the symptoms of the 8-month-old and 2-year-old.
Dominici was pronounced dead at a Bronx hospital later that day.
A fourth child who had attended the daycare was taken to the hospital by his mother after showing signs of opioid exposure, including shortness of breath and unresponsiveness.
It remains unclear how the children may have been exposed to these drugs. The cause and manner of Dominici’s death are under further investigation, according to the city medical examiner’s office.
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Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times more potent than heroin, has become a leading culprit in the increase in overdose deaths, both nationally and in New York. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often added to other drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, to increase its potency.
Accidental drug overdoses among children are also on the rise, with opioids being the most common substance contributing to fatal poisonings among children.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, children were found to have ingested the substance orally, rather than touching it or inhaling it through the air, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.