Hours before she was pulled, dying from burns, from the backseat of her father’s car, the man now suspected of killing 3-year-old Zoey Pereira posted the last in a series of photos of his daughter on Facebook.
According to the New York Daily News, relatives have identified Zoey’s father as Martin Pereira of Valley Stream, Long Island. He is reportedly in police custody but has not yet been charged with his daughter’s murder, though authorities announced Monday that Zoey’s death is now being treated as a homicide.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, police responded to a call about a car in the middle of the road in Queens on Sunday night, and found Zoey in the backseat of the vehicle, which had ignited in flames. Though the doors were chained shut, the heat from the fire reportedly melted the door handle, allowing officers to retrieve the mortally injured little girl, who was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
There are conflicting reports about exactly when the suspect fled the car and reportedly ran to a nearby pond, his own body in flames, but according to the latest Daily News report, a passerby spotted Pereira as he was running into a pond near where the car was left in the road. The witness reportedly gave Pereira a blanket, and he then said, “I have my kid in the car,” prompting the witness to call 911.
A police source told the New York Post that Pereira appeared to be trying to hide from police, and removed most of his clothes, which were presumably in flames or burned.
“The only reason [cops] found him was that a piece of his clothing was on fire. He was stripped down to his underwear,” the source told the New York Post.
Law enforcement sources told the newspaper that Pereira, who as of Monday was being treated for second- and third-degree burns, was involved in a custody dispute with the girl’s mother, and had been scheduled to return Zoey to her mother on Sunday.
A Facebook profile appearing to belong to the suspect features multiple photos of Zoey, some with her father.
“He burned her alive. That’s not even human. That’s an animal. He’s a coward. He got out of the car and killed his child,” a relative said in an interview with the Daily News.
An aunt told the New York Post that Pereira had recently split from Zoey’s mother, and it was only his second weekend with his daughter since the breakup.
“His behavior recently has been very erratic,” the aunt told the newspaper, adding, “Hopefully he dies. I’m just being honest. I hope he dies.”
The story is continuing to develop, and CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.
[Feature image: Facebook]