Joselyn Maritza Méndez died on Friday after she was left in a hot, Florida minivan for seven hours. The 2-year-old’s caretaker, Juana Perez-Domingo, was charged with aggravated manslaughter after leaving the young girl in the car, resulting in her death.
The 43-year-old woman was arrested over the weekend after police alleged she left the 2-year-old girl in the hot vehicle all day long. Juana Perez-Domingo is currently sitting in a Florida jail and her bond was set at $50,000 following the incident.
The toddler was found unresponsive in Perez-Domingo’s minivan late Friday after spending the entire day strapped inside while the blazing sun heated the minivan. Her mother reportedly paid Juana Perez-Domingo $40 a week to take the 2-year-old to daycare each morning. It was on their normal route that the tragedy occurred.
According to the arrest report, Perez-Domingo picked Joselyn Maritza Méndez up at around 6:30 a.m. Friday, at her Homestead home in Florida. The caretaker then strapped the girl into the third row of her white minivan which didn’t have a car seat. It was reported that Perez-Domingo does not have a driver’s license.
Perez-Domingo then drove to her house because the daycare center doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m. At home, Juana Perez-Domingo unstrapped little Méndez and took her inside for about an hour before returning her to the minivan. It was at this point that the caretaker became distracted, leaving the 2-year-old strapped into the third-row of the hot minivan. Perez-Domingo didn’t return to the vehicle until around 3:15 p.m. when she found the toddler lying unresponsive in the back seat.
The criminal caretaker did not call 911, but instead called the girl’s mother and told her that her daughter was dead. Perez-Domingo then drove the dead toddler to the mother’s home in Homestead, located along the 800 block of Northwest Third Avenue. The girl’s mother then called 911 and Perez-Domingo was arrested.
Joselyn Maritza Méndez’s death rattled her family and now her mother is seeking answers. Though it’s unclear what happened during that tragic day, Perez-Domingo’s husband, Pedro, insisted that it must have been an accident.
“She forgot, or… I don’t know, the only one who knows is her,” he explained to Local 10 News. “All she said to me was, ‘Goodbye my love.’” He then explained that “it was a tragedy” and not “intentional.”
“We don’t really know what happened. The law here is blaming her, claiming murder, but it wasn’t like that.” Pedro explained that his wife must have forgotten that the girl was in the car and that the crime committed could not have been murder.
Juana Perez-Domingo has not spoken about the incident and it isn’t clear whether she has hired an attorney. The woman has not entered a plea deal for the aggravated manslaughter of a child charge.
Joselyn Maritza Méndez’s mother, Elbia Mendez-Ramirez, claimed to a local outlet that “I’m really sad about what happened to her.” She admitted that there was nothing more she could do. “What can I really do? She is no longer here.”
She continued, explaining that “I feel really awful right now. I feel bad because my daughter isn’t here with me.” Mendez-Ramirez concluded her statement, saying that “It’s not the same as if she were here. She would tell me everything, ‘Mommy,’ but now who will talk to me about anything? Nobody.”
An autopsy on the 2-year-old’s body was scheduled for Saturday. It was confirmed that the toddler died while trapped inside her caretaker’s minivan, though no other details regarding her cause of death have been revealed.