A fourth suspect linked to the Bronx day care center under investigation for suspected fentanyl drug distribution and the death of a 1-year-old boy has been arrested in Mexico, where he was on the run from authorities, according to the New York Police department.
The suspect was taken into custody in Mexico, the NYPD confirmed to USA TODAY. Felix Herrera Garcia, the husband of the owner and operator of the Divino Niño day care center, was arrested on a bus in Sinaloa by Mexican authorities and Drug Enforcement Administration agents, CNN and CBS New York reported.
Authorities had been searching for Herrera Garcia for nearly two weeks after surveillance video captured him fleeing from the day care center carrying two full shopping bags, which investigators believe contained bricks of fentanyl. The charges against him have not yet been disclosed.
Herrera Garcia is the fourth person to be arrested in the death of Nicholas Feliz Dominici, who was found unconscious by first responders on Sept. 15. Three other children from the day care center were treated for suspected fentanyl poisoning and recovered after being administered the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.
The incident has sparked public outcry, and three people − Grei Mendez, 36; Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41; and Renny Antonio Parra Paredes, 38 − have been charged in the boy's death.
Bronx daycare center case: After overdose death, police find secret door to fentanyl at Niño Divino daycare in Bronx
Who is Felix Herrera Garcia?
New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said Herrera Garcia had been on the run from authorities and was traveling by a vehicle through Texas to Mexico, The New York Times reported. Authorities believe Herrera Garcia was trying to travel to the Dominican Republic, where he is from.
He was on a bus in the city of Sinaloa, home to one of the world's deadliest drug cartels, when he was captured by Mexican and U.S. federal authorities.
An attorney for Mendez, who is Herrera Garcia's wife, said at a court hearing last week that the drug dealing allegations were “about Ms. Mendez’s husband, not her.” Herrera Garcia was seen on surveillance footage leaving the day care center with full plastic bags minutes after Mendez warned him about the unresponsive children.
"Minutes later, he left the day care and fled out the back alley, carrying two full shopping bags. All of that happened while the children, the babies, were suffering the effect of fentanyl and were in desperate need of help," said Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
New York police officials said Herrera Garcia has at least two prior arrests: for a 2013 burglary in Queens and an order of protection violation in 2010 in Brooklyn, according to The Times.
Three others charged in child's death
Mendez and Acevedo Brito, who lived in the apartment where the day care was operating, were charged with murder of “depraved indifference” last week. Both were ordered held without bail.
They also face federal charges, including conspiracy and narcotics possession with intent to distribute resulting in death.
“Parents entrusted Grei Mendez with the care of their children,” Williams said in a statement. “As alleged, instead of diligently safeguarding the well-being of those children, she and her co-conspirators put them directly in harm’s way, running a narcotics operation and storing deadly fentanyl out of the very space in which the children ate, slept, and played."
Another man, Paredes, also known as “El Gallo,” was charged in federal court on Monday with conspiracy to distribute the narcotics.
An investigation found cellphone location data that suggested Paredes visited the day care center regularly, and text messages show a phone number labeled “El Gallo” that was in regular communication with Acevedo Brito, according to court filings.
In one message sent to Acevedo Brito, “El Gallo” allegedly warned that if Mendez's husband was “going to take the garbage out, the police are out there on the side.” Another message showed “El Gallo” saying he left Acevedo Brito “una torta,” a Spanish word that investigators said is used to refer to a kilogram of narcotics
What happened at the day care?
On Sept. 15, NYPD officers were called to the day care center, where they found an 8-month-old girl and two boys, 1 and 2, unconscious. All three children were administered Narcan after first responders determined they were exhibiting signs of a drug overdose.
Two of the children recovered, but 1-year-old Dominici died at a hospital. Another 2-year-old boy from the day care was checked into a hospital after his mother noticed he was "lethargic and unresponsive." He recovered after being administered Narcan.
The day care center had passed three routine checks by the Department of Health, including an annual unannounced search this month that did not find any violations. Police also said they had received no complaints from the community related to "drug transactions" at the center.
Zoila Dominici, the mother of Nicholas Feliz Dominici, told The Times she had toured the day care center and saw nothing "out of the ordinary."
But a search of the center revealed a kilogram of fentanyl on top of play mats in a closet, and drug paraphernalia was found hidden inside the floor where children played, including glassine envelopes with a “Red Dawn” stamp, according to court documents. The same stamp was allegedly found in the apartment where Paredes was living, along with other drug supplies.
Contributing: Minnah Arshad and Cybele Mayes-Osterman, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fourth suspect in fentanyl day care center death arrested in Mexico