The husband of the owner and operator of the Bronx day care where a 1-year-child died of suspected fentanyl exposure has been captured by authorities in Mexico, multiple US law enforcement sources familiar with the search told CNN on Tuesday.
Felix Herrera Garcia, husband of Grei Mendez, was on a bus in the city of Sinaloa when he was taken into custody by Mexican authorities and US Drug Enforcement Administration agents Tuesday, one of the sources said.
Herrera Garcia – who was allegedly seen on surveillance video running from the day care centerwith plastic bags that investigators believe contain fentanyl after the children fell unconscious – is in the custody of US Marshals, who will handle his extradition to New York.
Herrera Garcia, along with the three others arrested as part of the alleged conspiracy – Mendez, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, and Renny Antonio Parra Paredes, 38 – were all said to be mid-level drug distributors, a federal law enforcement official previously told CNN.
The arrest caps off an intense manhunt that was sparked by public outcry stemming from the suspected fentanyl exposure death.
New York Police Department officers were called to the day care center around 2:30 p.m. on September 15 where they discovered three unconscious children. First responders administered Narcan – a drug that reverses the effect of opioid overdose – to all three children to reverse the overdose, said NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny at an earlier news conference.
Two children survived but the third – identified by authorities as 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici – died at a local hospital, NYPD officials said. Another child, a 2-year-old, was taken to a hospital after they were picked up by their parents. That child was also treated for exposure to the highly potent drug, police officials have said.
Investigators found fentanyl in an area where children napped at the day care center “laying underneath a mat where children had been sleeping earlier,” Kenny said last week at a news conference. They also found three kilogram press devices, two inside the hallway and another inside another room, authorities said.
Authorities discovered a trap floor containing drugs, including fentanyl, inside the day care, the New York Police Department announced last week.
A New York City grand jury voted Thursday to indict Mendez, 36, and Brito, 41, according to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
Before they were indicted, Mendez and Acevedo Brito were both charged in state court with murder, manslaughter, assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, court documents show.
On Monday, Parra Paredes, 38, was charged in federal court in Manhattan with one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death.
Day care owner will fight charges, attorney has said
Mendez’s defense attorney, Andres Manuel Aranda, told CNN last week his client is going to fight the charges.
Mendez didn’t have anything to do with the case “besides taking care of the kids,” Aranda said.
“She has no previous knowledge of any contraband in the apartment. None whatsoever,” he said.
Mendez “feels horrible about what happened,” her attorney said, adding she was the one who called 911.
Mendez and Brito have also been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death.
In a criminal complaint, a DEA agent alleges Mendez called her husband twice before calling emergency services.
Several minutes before law enforcement arrived, the DEA agent writes, surveillance footage showed Mendez’s husband enter the daycare “empty-handed and then exit approximately two minutes later carrying what appears to be two shopping bags weighted with contents.”
Instead of exiting through the front door of the daycare, Mendez’s husband exited through a back alley, the agent says.
CNN has also reached out to the attorneys for Brito and Paredes for comment.
Fentanyl is a fully synthetic opioid, originally developed as a powerful anesthetic for surgery. It is also administered to alleviate severe pain associated with terminal illnesses like cancer.
The drug is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and just a small dose can be deadly. Illicitly produced fentanyl has been a driving factor in the number of overdose deaths in recent years.
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