Childcare owner charged with murder of toddler who died after opioid exposure

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New York: The owner of a New York City childcare centre and a tenant living in the building have been arrested after a one-year-old boy died and three other young children were hospitalised by what officials described as exposure to opioids.

The arrests came one day after authorities discovered four young children – ranging in age from eight months to two years old – showing signs of suspected opioid overdose after spending time at the Bronx childcare centre, Divino Nino.

Police investigate the scene at a childcare centre after a one-year-old boy died and three other young children were hospitalised.Credit: NYT

Nicholas Dominici, a one-year-old child, was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Three others were revived after medics administered doses of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, authorities said.

On Saturday evening, police arrested the owner of the facility, Grei Mendez, 36, and a building tenant, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, on charges of depraved indifference murder, assault and criminal possession of narcotics, including fentanyl.

Dominici’s cause of death remains under investigation by the city’s medical examiner.

Police say they found a kilo press – a device used to package large quantities of drugs – after executing a search warrant on the childcare centre, a home-based operation that opened in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx earlier this year.

Nicholas’ parents, Zoila Dominici and Otoniel Feliz, said their young child had started attending the centre only a week ago.

“He was so intelligent. He would repeat everything you would say to him,” Dominici said. “He had so much love. Everyone who knew him appreciated him, all of our neighbours.”

New York City, like much of the country, has seen rising levels of opioid-related deaths, with the vast majority of fatalities now attributed to Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be more than 50 times stronger than heroin.

Mayor Eric Adams said Dominici’s death underscored challenges the city faces in its fight against opioids.

“This crisis is real, and it is a real wake‑up call for individuals who have opioids or fentanyl in their homes,” Adams said. “The mere contact is deadly for an adult and it’s extremely deadly for a child.”

Studies have shown that young people are increasingly dying from unintentional drug overdoses, with opioids now the most common substances contributing to fatal poisonings among young children.

In instances where children were exposed to opioids, nearly all were found to have involved children who orally ingested the substance, rather than touching or inhaling it, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Authorities have not indicated how they believe the children came in contact with the drug.


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