New York City daycare owner charged with murder after infant overdose death

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A Bronx daycare owner was jailed on a count of depraved indifference murder as well as drug charges on Saturday after a one-year-old infant died from apparent fentanyl poisoning on her watch, according to officials.

Three other children – an eight-month-old girl and a pair of two-year-old boys – also appeared to have been sickened by the potent, synthetic opioid, authorities said.

Related: New York man on motorbike dies after officer throws picnic cooler at head

The New York City police department (NYPD) identified the daycare owner as Grei Mendez. Investigators also booked one of Mendez’s tenants, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, with depraved indifference murder and drug charges in relation to the fatal incident.

Police arrested Mendez, 36, and Brito, 41, one day after the children showed signs of having possibly been poisoned by an opioid. Authorities said that Nicholas Dominici, 1, died at a hospital near the daycare that he attended.

Emergency medical technicians revived three other children at the daycare after giving them the opioid poisoning antidote Narcan, reports said.

Mendez and Brito also face counts of assault and child endangerment.

Police alleged that they discovered a kilo press – which is often used to package drugs – when they searched the Divino Niño daycare.

“This is an item that is commonly used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of drugs,” the NYPD’s chief of detectives, Joseph Kenney, said at a press conference, according to reports.

The daycare, run out of a private home, had reportedly recently passed a surprise city inspection.

Zoila Dominici and Otoniel Feliz, Nicholas’s parents, said the infant had just started at the daycare one week earlier. “He was so intelligent,” Dominici said to CBS News. “He would repeat everything you would say to him.

“He had so much love. Everyone who knew him appreciated him, all of our neighbors.”

New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, said on Saturday at a briefing with reporters that Nicholas Dominici’s death illustrated the devastation wreaked by the ongoing opioid crisis.

“This crisis is real, and it is a real wake‑up call for individuals who have opioids or fentanyl in their homes,” Adams said, according to the Associated Press. “The mere contact is deadly for an adult and it’s extremely deadly for a child.”

Police have not yet disclosed how they believe the children encountered the drugs. The city’s medical examiner is still working to determine the boy’s exact cause of death, despite investigators’ suspicion that it resulted from fentanyl poisoning, the AP said.

The New York City health commissioner, Dr Ashwin Vasan, told reporters that the children encountered a “powerful substance which can … intoxicate the recipient” but that authorities “don’t [yet] know what happened in this case”.

The NYPD police commissioner, Edward Caban, also reportedly said: “We don’t know exactly what happened to those babies.”

The arrests this weekend are not the first time a New York City daycare has been implicated in drug crimes. In 2013, police discovered cocaine, oxycodone and guns at Fun World Childcare, also in the Bronx.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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