Zoey Pereira

Father faces murder charges after chaining 3-year-old little girl inside car, setting it on fire and leaving her to die: Police

A New York father has now been criminally charged with murder and arson after he allegedly chained his young daughter inside a burning car, Newsday reports.

Prosecutors on Friday took action against the man, 39-year-old Martin Pereira of Long Island.

Two weeks earlier, on May 5, firefighters discovered his 3-year-old daughter, Zoey Pereira, inside a burning Audi, which had been parked in Queens, according to NYPD Detective Michael DeBonis.

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Heat from the fire had melted a door handle, which helped firefighters access the girl. Rescue crews then extricated Zoey, who was still alive, and rushed her to a hospital. She later died.

Police found Pereira nearby and arrested him. He had burns to 70 percent of his body and could not speak with officers because of his injuries. According to police, Pereira ran into a pond to extinguish his burning clothes. He told witnesses that his daughter was in the vehicle.

He was brought to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, but was later transferred under police custody to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, according to the NYPD.

His medical condition remains serious, but he is stable and is expected to survive. The medical examiner will rule on Zoey’s official cause of death. It was not immediately clear whether the girl may have had other injuries prior to the blaze.

Pereira is accused of using heavy chains to fasten the car doors shut, according to CNN. He also had two cans of gasoline and at least one propane tank in the vehicle.

Sources told CNN that Pereira and his wife were disputing custody of the child. The wife reportedly told the New York Daily News that he called her before the incident and threatened she would never see Zoey again.

Pereira also faces a charge of reckless endangerment.

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[Feature Photo: Zoey Pereira/Handout]