A New York City daycare center where a toddler died and three others were made very sick last week had bags on fentanyl hidden under the floor where the children played, according to police reports.
New York City detectives found the drugs during the execution of a search warrant on the Bronx apartment on Thursday , including a large quantity of fentanyl and other drug-taking paraphernalia concealed under a trapdoor made of take and plywood.
Photos shared by police showed bags full of powder inside the “trap floor” a few steps away from a shelf of children’s toys.
Nicholas Dominici, who had been at the nursery for just a week, died of a suspected drug overdose on Friday.
Three other children were admitted to hospital after being exposed to the powerful narcotic at the daycare centre in the Bronx.
Drug conspiracy and murder charges have been filed against two people.
Police believe the children, ranging in age from eight months to two years old, inhaled fentanyl at the nursery.
Three children were given Narcan, an emergency medication used to reverse opioid overdoses.
Otoniel Feliz, Dominici’s father, was quoted by ABC as saying that he is still processing the death of his young child.
“I love him, I miss him, I want him back,” Mr Feliz said. “But there’s nothing that will give me back my son”.
A search of the nursery turned up one kilo of fentanyl that was discovered “underneath a mat where the children had been sleeping earlier”, said NYPD chief detective Joseph Kenny on Monday.
Investigators also allegedly discovered three presses used to package kilos of drugs.
The grim discovery came nearly a week after four children at the daycare in the Bronx apartment were treated for opioid poisoning. One of the victims, 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici, is believed to have died from the exposure.
The owner of the Divino Niño nursery in the Bronx, Grei Mendez, 36, and her tenant, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, are facing federal charges of narcotics possession “with intent to distribute resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death”, according to federal prosecutors.
Prior to finding the drugs beneath the trap door, police had already announced the discovery of a kilogramme (2.2lb) of fentanyl that was stored near mats that children used for sleeping along with multiple devices used by traffickers for mixing drugs and pressing it into bricks.
Federal prosecutors said Mendez, 36, took steps to cover up the drug operation on September 15 shortly after realizing that some of the children in her care were not waking up from their naps.
Before alerting first responders, she called her husband, authorities said. He was seen on surveillance footage entering the building moments later, then leaving through a back alley with multiple shopping bags.
“All of that happened while the children, the babies, were suffering from effects of fentanyl poisoning and in desperate need of help,” Manhattan US Attorney Damien Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday.
During a federal court appearance in Manhattan, a lawyer for Mendez said she had no knowledge of the drug operation while suggesting her husband was responsible for the narcotics. Brito, 41, did not speak during his court appearance.
Both face up to life in prison if convicted on federal charges of possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death and one count of conspiracy. They were also charged in a New York state court with murder, manslaughter and assault.
Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, AP.