The owner of a New York day care where a one-year-old boy died of fentanyl exposure was dubbed “depraved” during a court hearing.
Youngster Nicholas Dominici died after he was exposed to the opioid at a Bronx facility on Friday, while three other young children were hospitalised.
Daycare owner Grei Mendez, 36, and tenant Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, were arrested on charges including murder, manslaughter and assault.
A kilo of fentanyl was found in a hallway closet outside Mr Brito’s room, which he rented from Ms Mendez for $200 a week, according to investigators.
Prosecutors told a judge during a Sunday night arraignment hearing that Ms Mendez had taken part in the “reckless depraved act” by renting Mr Brito, her husband’s cousin, the room, reported ABC News.
Her lawyer told the court that his client, who faces a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted, had no idea that drugs were being stored at the daycare.
“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.”
Police say that drug production equipment was also found inside the daycare. Investigators believe that the children inhaled fentanyl particles during their daylong exposure to the drug before they were found unconscious and the alarm was raised.
The judge said that Mr Brito, a national of the Dominican Republic in the country illegally, was a flight risk. He also said that Ms Mendez, who is not a US citizen and also has ties to the Dominican Republic, was a flight risk.
Authorities are also looking to question Ms Mendez’s husband, who they say was captured on video fleeing the daycare with bags after the incident.
“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!’” Nicholas’s father, Otoniel Feliz, told ABC7.
“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.”