2 suspects arrested, 3rd sought after deadly fentanyl exposure at New York day care

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, September 18, 2023
3rd suspect sought in deadly opioid exposure at Bronx day care
Two individuals, the owner of the home-based day care and a tenant, have been charged after a one-year-old died and three children were hospitalized. Reporter Janice Yu has the det

NEW YORK -- Two suspects have been indicted and a third is sought by police in the deadly fentanyl exposure at a day care in New York City.

First responders were summoned on Friday afternoon to Divino Nino Daycare in the Bronx for reports of cardiac arrest.

Drug production equipment and a kilo of fentanyl were found inside the home-based day care and is suspected in the death of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici and the hospitalization of the three other young children.

Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, and Grei Mendez, 36, were dealt 11 charges including murder, manslaughter, and assault.

Police were still looking for Mendez's husband on Monday for questioning.

Officials say Brito is a tenant who was renting a room from Mendez. Brito is the cousin of Mendez's husband, authorities said.

Prosecutors said the kilo of fentanyl was found in a hallway closet outside Acevedo Brito's room and they say Mendez participated in the "reckless, depraved act" by renting him the room in the day care.

Mendez's attorney said she was unaware drugs were being stored in her day care by her husband's cousin, who 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."

Officials say the children ate something around 1 p.m. Friday and took a nap. When workers went to wake them up at 2:30 p.m., three were unconscious. Dominici was pronounced dead at Montefiore.

A 2-year-old boy remains in critical condition. An 8-month-old girl and another 2-year-old boy were also rushed to the hospital.

Investigators believe the children had been exposed to the opioids over an extended period.

The 2-year-old boy actually went home at around 12:15 p.m. Friday and was later found by his mother to be "acting lethargic and unresponsive." His mother rushed him to the hospital, where the opioid-reversal medication Narcan saved his life.

The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine Dominici's cause of death.

"I love him, I miss him, I want him back - but there's nothing that will give me back my son - when I came home from work and walked through the door, he'd say 'daddy, daddy!'" said Otoniel Feliz.

With watery eyes and a heavy heart, Feliz is mourning and processing how he lost his son at a place he assumed was safe.

"My wife was on her way to the day care. She was going to pick him up early. Shortly before she arrives, she receives the call and also sees the ambulance," Feliz added.

The day care, for children between 6 weeks and 12 years old, recently opened in January and just passed a surprise visit from city inspectors last week with no violations found.

After the children were removed from the day care, the fire department tested the air for environmental hazards and found no evidence of carbon monoxide. Officials then began to suspect opioid exposure and executed a search warrant to search the rooms, cabinets, and other spaces, where a drug packaging device was found.