NEW YORK CITY, NY- Two individuals have been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a 1-year-old child who was exposed to fentanyl at a daycare center in the Bronx. Grei Mendez, 36, the operator of the Divino Niño daycare center, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, her cousin-in-law and tenant, were taken into custody on Saturday. The incident occurred on Friday afternoon when authorities responded to a call at the daycare center and found three children, aged 1, 2, and 8 months, unconscious. Narcan was administered to all three children, with 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici tragically passing away at Montefiore Hospital later that day. The other two children have since recovered.
During the investigation, law enforcement discovered a package containing fentanyl worth thousands of dollars, as well as a kilo press used for packaging drugs. Mendez now faces multiple charges, including manslaughter, criminal possession of drugs, and depraved indifference to murder. She is currently being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
Andres Aranda, Mendez’s attorney, stated that his client was unaware of any drugs in the building.The Department of Health conducted an unannounced search earlier this month and found no violations. However, the potency of fentanyl is such that even a small amount can be fatal, particularly for children. According to Julie Gaither, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than heroin and can quickly lead to respiratory distress and arrest.
A study conducted by Gaither revealed that fentanyl was responsible for 94% of opioid overdose deaths in children in 2021, a significant just 5% in 1999. Ga emphasized that the problem of fentanyl exposure is not limited to older teens but is increasingly affecting very young children.
The investigation into the lethal incident continues as authorities work to determine the full extent of the circumstances surrounding the toddler’s death.