A New York father is accused of murdering his 3-year-old daughter, who died on May 4 while trapped inside a burning car whose doors had been chained shut.
PEOPLE confirms that Martin Pereira, 39, has been charged with murder, arson, and reckless endangerment for allegedly locking his the toddler, Zoey Pereira, inside his Audi, which was parked in the Queens neighborhood.
Police recovered gas cans from the scene they say were used to light the car on fire.
Firefighters managed to extricate the girl from the fully engulfed vehicle, but she died shortly after being rushed to the hospital.
The charges were only recently filed as Pereira was hospitalized for weeks with burns he sustained to 70 percent of his body.
A lawyer who could comment on his behalf wasn’t immediately identified, and it was unclear if he has entered a plea.
Eyewitnesses saw Pereira, on fire, run into a nearby park, where he jumped into a pond to extinguish the flames, an NYPD source previously told PEOPLE.
Pereira was taken into custody at the scene, but was unable to speak to police about his daughter’s death because of the severity of his injuries.
The NYPD source explained that the doors of the Audi had been chained shut from the interior, trapping the toddler inside. The windows were also rolled up.
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The manner of the girl’s death has been ruled a homicide, but police have not revealed her cause of death.
Zoey was at the center of an alleged custody dispute between her estranged parents, who live on Long Island.
The weekend of the killing, Pereira allegedly called Zoey’s mother, warning her she’d never see her daughter again.
“Just before he burned my daughter, he called, saying crazy things,” Zoey’s mother, Cherone Coleman, 36, told the New York Daily News.
“I couldn’t even understand some of them, but he said, ‘Do I have your attention now, b—-? I got your attention now, b—-. You’re never going to see your daughter again.’”
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