Last week, a child who was only 1 year old died after being exposed to opioids at a daycare center in New York City.
On Monday night, city and police officials confirmed that the cause of the toxic exposure was the presence of the highly addictive and deadly drug fentanyl.
During a search of the facility – the Divino Nino day care that was housed inside of an apartment in the Bronx – police found a package of fentanyl that they estimated was worth roughly $7,000.
In addition to Nicholas Dominici, who was killed as a result of toxic exposure, three other children who were at the daycare center got sick. That includes a girl who is only 8 months old who tested positive for fentanyl.
To this point, the daycare center’s owner, Grei Mendez, said she didn’t know that there was fentanyl in the facility. She was arrested over the weekend and charged with murder, but pleaded not guilty to those charges on Sunday.
Following her arraignment, she was sent to Rikers Island, where she’s being held without bail.
Carlisto Acevedo Brito, a 41-year-old man who rented one of the rooms that was in the apartment where the daycare center was located, was charged with similar crimes. He’s currently awaiting arraignment on his charges.
During the search, police recovered roughly one kilo of fentanyl inside of a closet that was in a hallway that connects the apartment. In addition, they also found a press device in that closet that’s used to combine fentanyl with other drugs – namely heroin.
The criminal complaint also said that police found a second press device inside the room that Brito occupied, which adjoins the room where the daycare center is.
At Monday’s news conference, Mayor Eric Adams said:
“We’re not going to allow this incident to take place and ignore this as just another day, another tragedy in the city. This is just total madness.”
Adams also pointed out that even small amounts of fentanyl could kill adults – as has happened time and again in accidental overdose cases across the country.
Andres Aranda, who is the lawyer representing Mendez, said that the daycare center owner rented out one of the rooms of the apartment to Brito, who is one of her husband’s cousins.
Daycare centers that are based in people’s homes are allowed by law in New York City as long as the number of children being watched there isn’t too large, and that the business has a legitimate license and is inspected.
The daycare center only opened back in January. Authorities said that the facility passed both inspections, the latest of which was a surprise visit that inspectors made to the facility just a few weeks ago, on September 6.
Aranda defended his client when he said this week:
“Apparently, when the daycare was not open, people came in and out of the apartment.”
Investigators are still trying to determine how all of the children were exposed to the fentanyl that was inside the facility.