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Bronx day care owner Grei Mendez, cousin-in-law Carlisto Brito plead not guilty to murder charges in 1-year-old boy's fentanyl death

3 suspects arraigned in Bronx day care fentanyl case
3 suspects arraigned in Bronx day care fentanyl case 02:17

NEW YORK -- A Bronx day care owner and her cousin-in-law were in court Thursday to face murder charges in the deadly fentanyl overdose of a 1-year-old boy

It happened as the owner's husband, Felix Herrera-Garcia, was set to appear separately in federal court. 

Grei Mendez and Carlisto Acevedo Brito pleaded not guilty to murder and drug charges in the death of Nicholas Dominici.

Dominici died of a fentanyl overdose on Sept. 15, and three other children were hospitalized after being exposed to the drug, which investigators believe the four suspects were distributing out of Divino Nino Day Care.

"This was not really a day care center. This was a drugs operation, and they used babies as a shield," Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said.

WATCH: Bronx district attorney holds press conference

Bronx DA holds press conference after 2 suspects plead not guilty in day care fentanyl case 34:47

Prosecutors say a kilogram of fentanyl, along with multiple fentanyl presses used to process the drug, were found in a closet. Officers also discovered a trap door with a secret compartment that contained more than five kilograms of fentanyl and other drugs.

Inside the courtroom and at a press conference afterwards were the families of the four children who suffered fentanyl poisoning at the Bronx day care center. The father of 1-year old Nicholas Dominici said he and his wife thought they finally found a day care they could trust.

"Every single day, the lady in charge sent text messages to my wife. We trusted she," said Otonel Feliz, the victim's father.

"Our sorrow is matched only by the outrage," Clark said. 

The Bronx DA provided new photos taken inside the day care center. One photo shows what they say is an unopened container of Narcan, the drug used by first responders, not the day care owners, to save the children they could.

"It speaks for itself that they had Narcan ... and we find a whole drug lab there," Clark said.

Feliz repeated a similar point throughout his remarks:  that the owner of the day care had been in such close touch with him and his wife that they grew to trust her. When Mendez walked into the courtroom in shackles, family members of the victims cried out loud at the sight of her.

Herrera-Garcia was arrested last week after he was located in Mexico. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and made his first appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon.

Mendez, Acevedo Brito and Herrera-Garcia are facing 15 years to life in prison, and all three are due back in court on Nov. 27.

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