A Florida couple accused of feeding their 3-month-old baby a lethal dose of vodka to quiet her surrendered to police in New Jersey Thursday after detectives tracked down a cell phone number and persuaded them to turn themselves in, officials said.
Mardala Derival and Mackenson Dantus were charged with aggravated manslaughter in the 2004 death of their daughter, Makeisha, who an autopsy found had a blood-alcohol level of 0.47 and severe liver damage when she died.
Derival, 22, and Dantus, 25, were awaiting extradition to Florida. It wasn’t clear if they had an attorney who could comment Thursday night.
“We spoke to them for an extended period of time and convinced them that they needed to turn themselves in,” said Elizabeth Calzadilla-Fiallo, a Broward County, Fla., Sheriff’s spokeswoman. “Our fugitive squad detectives did a good job of convincing them that this was the best thing for everyone involved.”
Officials contacted the two after getting Dantus’ cell phone number from a relative.
The couple initially told police they had been giving their daughter a bottle filled with a mixture of alcohol and water to help her sleep.
Equivalent of 18 beers
According to a police report, the autopsy showed the child had been fed fatal doses of alcohol shortly before her death and her liver indicated severe buildup of excess fat due to alcohol consumption.
Former Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Ronald Wright said that for a baby to ingest enough alcohol to reach 0.47 would be the equivalent of a 160-pound adult drinking 18 beers.
The couple had no record of previous abuse allegations, said Dr. Michael Haney, whose team investigates child abuse deaths for the state Department of Health.