The father arrested after his 3-year-old daughter was burned alive in the backseat of his car reportedly threatened to hurt the little girl earlier the day she died.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, police in New York City removed 3-year-old Zoey Pereira from a smoldering car that had been left in the middle of a road in Queens on Sunday night. She was taken to a nearby hospital, but could not be saved.
According to multiple reports, Zoey’s father Manuel Pereira had been behind the wheel of the car, and fled the scene sometime before responders pulled Zoey out of the vehicle. The rear doors of the car had reportedly been chained shut, but police were able to open the car door because the heat from the flames had melted the handle.
Pereira, who was severely burned, was later apprehended after he removed most of his clothing and jumped into a nearby pond. He is reportedly in police custody but has not yet been charged with a crime.
Authorities said on Monday that Zoey’s death is considered a homicide.
Her mother, Cherone Coleman, told the New York Daily News that she did not want Pereira, her former partner, to take Zoey for the weekend, and said she had asked a judge to modify the custody agreement, but was denied. According to the report, it was only the second time Zoey has been in Pereira’s custody since the couple split.
“I should’ve just kept her and gone to jail,” Coleman told the newspaper, referring to a judge’s order that Pereira be able to take the child.
On the Saturday before Zoey was killed, Coleman claimed that Pereira took the girl to a children’s medical center, claiming that Zoey was being abused by her mother, which she denied.
According to the New York Post, both parents had made reports to state agencies this year accusing the other of abusing Zoey. But only Coleman was under investigation, an Administration for Children’s Services spokesperson confirmed to the newspaper, declining to comment on why Pereira was not also being investigated.
On Sunday, Coleman said Pereira called her repeatedly but that she did not take his calls. Eventually, she heard from a relative who Pereira had contacted by phone called Coleman, and then communicated with her ex, according to the interview.
“Just before he burned my daughter he called saying crazy things,” Coleman told the Daily News. “I couldn’t even understand some of them, but he said, ‘Do I have your attention now, b**ch? I got your attention now, b**ch. You’re never going to see your daughter again.’”