Martin Pereira, 39, reportedly chained his 3-year-old daughter in his car on Sunday and set the car ablaze.
The vehicle was purportedly outfitted with two separate propane tanks. The child, Zoey, burned to death after Pereira reportedly set fire inside the car. She was strapped into her car seat with both rear doors chained shut, one to the other, so that the doors could not be opened.
The suspect was found at a pond at a nearby park, in flames, and trying to extinguish himself.
What are the details?
According to authorities, Pereira is a suspect in Zoey’s death, which was ruled a homicide, the New York Post reported.
The incident took place Sunday night in Queens, New York. Pereira’s vehicle reportedly had a propane tank inside, and a propane tank outside, connected to the car via a hose. A law enforcement source told the New York Post that it was a “horrific way to kill a little girl.”
A witness reportedly saw Pereira on fire and attempted to help him put out his burning clothing. Pereira reportedly told the witness that his child was in the car, but he fled when the witness phoned 911.
He fled to the nearby pond, but authorities discovered him there, the New York Post reported.
Investigators are now trying to figure out if Pereira tried to kill himself as well as the child, but backed out at the last minute, or if he set himself on fire in error.
Another source told the Post, “If I had a crystal ball, I’d say he’s probably going to be charged with murder.”
The source added, “My thought process is maybe he tried to kill himself and the child, and it got to be too much so he ran away. Or, he might have accidentally lit himself on fire.”
First responders took Pereira from the scene to nearby Jamaica Hospital, where he was treated for second- and third-degree burns. The Post reported that as of Monday, Pereira was being treated at Weill Cornell Medical Center and was in police custody. He has yet to be charged, according to the Post.
First responders were able to extricate Zoey from the car and begin CPR, but it was too late, the New York Post reported. She was taken to the hospital, but they could not save the little child either.
The Post reported that Pereira has a history of crime. He was reportedly arrested once for criminal contempt, and had two arrests for aggravated harassment against a different woman in 2013.
The outlet also reported that Pereira was “locked in a bitter custody dispute” with the child’s mother, and reportedly had a history of threatening to hurt the little girl leading up to the child’s death.
The Post noted that Pereira was supposed to be returning the child to her mother’s custody on Sunday night. The mother, Cherone Coleman, reportedly phoned police to report her daughter missing around the time that Pereira was setting the car on fire.
Coleman, a 36-year-old medical assistant, told the New York Daily News that she is heartbroken.
“Just before he burned my daughter he called saying crazy things,” Coleman revealed. “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.’
“My daughter was perfect. She was loving, always smiling, and oh so caring,” she added. “She was my only child, and I can’t have any more.”
Coleman said that she wishes death on Pereira.
“I wish I could torture him and kill him,” she admitted. “I can’t imagine the pain my baby went through. She was burned terribly, her bones were out and he ran off and left her to burn to death. Why would he do this to my daughter to get to me? It doesn’t make sense.”
The child’s aunt told the Post that she also hopes Pereira dies.
“He killed a baby. He burned her alive. He did that to her. That’s not even human, that’s an animal. That’s a coward,” she said. “He did that to her. That’s not even human, that’s an animal,” one of the child’s aunts told the outlet.
“I hope he f***ing dies. I’m just being honest. I hope he dies,” another aunt added.
Father Arrested Following Death Of 3-Year-Old Girl Pulled From Car Fire