Fentanyl Found in 'Trap Door' Under Children's Play Area Inside New York Day Care Where Boy, 1, Died

Fentanyl Found in 'Trap Door' Under Children's Play Area Inside New York Day Care Where Boy, 1, Died
Fentanyl pills found by officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration are seen in this handout picture, in New York, on Oct. 4, 2022. (Drug Enforcement Administration/Handout via Reuters)
Katabella Roberts
Detectives with the New York Police Department (NYPD) found more bags of fentanyl hidden inside the Bronx daycare where a 1-year-old boy died and others were hospitalized after allegedly being exposed to narcotics.
Law enforcement officials were executing a search warrant at Divino Nino Day Care, located in Kingsbridge Heights Community in the Bronx, on Sept. 21 when they found the fentanyl along with other narcotics, and drug paraphernalia stashed beneath a trap door in the children’s play area, police said.

Photos shared by the NYPD on X, formerly Twitter, show the illegal stash was concealed by plywood and tile flooring which has been pulled up.

The discovery comes just a week after first responders were called to the daycare on Sept. 15 following reports of cardiac arrest and found three children—two 2-year-old boys and an 8-month-old girl—who were unresponsive and "demonstrating symptoms of opioid exposure."

The three children were given Narcan, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, and two of them—a 2-year-old boy and an 8-month-old girl—recovered, however, the one-year-old boy was later pronounced dead at Montefiore Hospital, police said.

Police identified the deceased boy as Nicholas Dominici.

Another child, a 2-year-old boy, also appeared to suffer from opioid exposure after being taken home from the daycare center by his mother earlier in the day.

The mother took the child to the hospital after he became lethargic and unresponsive and staff administered Narcan which ultimately saved his life, police said.

Testing of all the children found fentanyl in their systems, police said.

A search of the daycare center resulted in police seizing one kilogram of fentanyl which had been stored underneath a mat where the children had been sleeping earlier in the day, meaning they likely inhaled it, police said.

 A man prepares to heat fentanyl in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A man prepares to heat fentanyl in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Police Searching for Third Suspect

Law enforcement officers also found drug production equipment including a total of three-kilo presses, which are typically used to package large quantities of drugs, during the search.

The day care's owner, 36-year-old Grei Mendez, and her husband's cousin, 41-year-old Carlisto Acevedo Brito, who police said rents a room there, have been arrested and charged with murder, manslaughter, assault, depraved indifference, and multiple drug charges.

Both Ms. Mendez and Mr. Brito have been were also charged with narcotics possession with intent to distribute resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death.

They remain in federal custody after they were ordered held without bail.

Authorities are still seeking a third individual, Mendez’s husband, who was seen on surveillance footage entering the daycare moments after his wife called 911 to report the children's symptoms, police said. He left the building through a back alley with multiple shopping bags in hand, according to officials.

Police said Ms. Mendez called her husband prior to containing 911.

Ms. Mendez's attorney has claimed she had no knowledge of a drug operation and was unaware the deadly narcotics were being stored in her daycare center by Mr. Brito.

"Her only crime was renting her room to someone who had a kilo," her attorney Andres Aranda said during his client's arraignment last week. "There is no evidence that she did anything but care properly for these children."

It is unclear whether Mr. Brito has a legal representative.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat acute pain. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. It is also extremely addictive.

Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 107,081 people died from drug overdoses in 2022, amid the opioid epidemic.

More than 68 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids "principally illicitly manufactured fentanyl," according to the health agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics