In the Bronx, a disturbing tragedy unfolded after four children were exposed to an opioid believed to be fentanyl at a local childcare center, culminating in the death of a one-year-old boy. In connection to this shocking incident, authorities have detained two suspects, identified as 36-year-old Grei Mendez and 41-year-old Carlisto Acevedo Brito, who are now facing charges that include murder, manslaughter, and possession of a controlled substance.
Court records reveal that Mendez is the proprietor of Divino Niño daycare, the facility caught in this terrifying ordeal, while Brito, a tenant residing within the establishment, is a cousin of Mendez’s husband. The pair were charged and remanded without the possibility of bail after their indictment on Sunday.
The incident led to a flurry of activity as New York City police officers responded to a distress call to the childcare center at approximately 2:30 p.m. last Friday, only to find three unconscious children. In a desperate bid to save their young lives, first responders employed Narcan, an opioid antidote, but despite their best efforts, one-year-old Nicholas Dominici succumbed at Montefiore Medical Center.
Simultaneously, another concerning episode was playing out. A two-year-old boy, taken home from the childcare a little after noon, was discovered in a concerning state by his mother who observed him acting lethargic and unresponsive. At BronxCare Health System, Narcan was used to revive him, potentially saving his life. NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny confirmed in a Monday news conference that the surviving children were now stable.
Deepening the shock and horror of it all was the discovery of a kilogram of fentanyl within the napping area of the children at the Bronx daycare. In addition, three kilogram press devices were found on the premises. The press devices, as Kenny explained, are tools of the narcotic trade often used to package large quantities of substances.
Despite the devastating event and subsequent discoveries, it seems there were no previous complaints or calls in connection to drug transactions linked to the daycare. As the defense attorney for Mendez, Andres Manuel Aranda, prepared to contest the charges, he expressed that Mendez was, as he put it, “feeling horrible” about the incident, emphasizing that she, herself, had called the emergency services.
On a wider scale, the incident has triggered a comprehensive investigation into the safety of NYC’s network of home-based child care sites, officially overseen by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. In an alarming revelation, inspectors tasked with monitoring these thousands of facilities are currently unequipped to search for substances like fentanyl. The horrifying incident has underlined the urgent necessity for improved practices and vigilance.
Lingering at the backdrop of this devastating situation is the ongoing rise in drug overdose deaths across the nation, with opioids playing a significant role. Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed over 111,000 deaths from the drug overdose in a 12-month span ending in April, and this upward trend is mirroring among children, especially among older adolescents and children under the age of five.
In a particularly poignant response to the horrific situation, New York City Mayor Eric Adams labeled the incident as “total madness”. His outrage was directed not only at the perpetrators but also at the circumstance where Narcan, an opioid reversal treatment, has disturbingly become a necessity in the midst of the innocence of childhood.