A man and a woman have been arrested on murder charges after a 1-year-old died and three other children were hospitalized following suspected exposure to opioids at a Bronx day care center Friday, police said.
In addition to the murder charges, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, and Grei Mendez, 36, were arrested Saturday night on multiple counts of manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a controlled substance and narcotic drug and endangering the welfare of a child after Nicholas Dominici died and three other kids were hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl at the day care center.
Brito and Mendez's relationship to the day care center was not immediately apparent, and police did not immediately respond to a question seeking clarification.
It was also not immediately clear whether Brito and Mendez have lawyers who could speak on their behalf.
A spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner said Nicholas's cause and manner of death was under investigation.
Police said the 911 call came in just after 2:40 p.m. on Friday. Officers discovered Dominici unconscious and unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical Center upon arrival.
Officers also found an unconscious 2-year-old boy and an 8-month-old girl, who were also transported to Montefiore; the boy is in critical condition and the girl is stable, police said.
A third child, a 2-year-old boy, was also hospitalized at BronxCare Health System, where he is in stable condition, police said.
New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny told reporters that the third child's mother took him to the hospital herself after picking him up from the day care center around 12:15 p.m. that day and noticing that he was "acting lethargic and unresponsive" once they returned home. At the hospital, staff administered Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, to save the boy's life, Kenny said.
Kenny said that first responders also administered Narcan to the three children who they found at the day care center.
Upon executing a search warrant at the day care, NYPD officials found a "kilo press," which Kenny described as an item "commonly used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of drugs."
The day care center was licensed by the state and was last inspected by officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Sept. 9, according to Kenny and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, who said that no violations were found at that time, and that it was a surprise inspection that the day care officials did not have advance notice of.
Vasan said that the day care center was a home-based center that opened in January, and that it had had two routine inspections early on to secure its license.
The investigation is ongoing, Kenny added.
Mayor Eric Adams called the tragedy "a real wake-up call to individuals who have opioids or fentanyl in their homes."
“The mere contact is deadly for an adult, and is extremely deadly for a child," he said.
A study published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics found that opioids were the most common substance contributing to the poisoning deaths of children ages 5 and younger, accounting for more than 47% of the poisoning deaths among children in that age group between 2005 and 2018, or 346 of 731 total deaths reported to the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. The study's lead author said that signs of opioid poisoning in young children include slow and shallow breathing, contracted pupils and appearing unresponsive or limp.
Narcan became available over-the-counter earlier this month, in a move that advocates hope will help stymie the country's worsening opioid epidemic, which led to more than 107,000 overdose deaths — an all-time high — in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a 24/7 National Helpline for individuals with substance abuse issues and their family members. The hotline, which offers assistance in English and Spanish, can be reached at 800-662-HELP (4357). To find behavioral health treatment services, visit SAMHSA’s website.