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Three-Year-Old Girl Dies After Father Allegedly Traps Her In A Burning Car Amid Custody Battle

Police discovered the body of a 3-year-old girl while extinguishing a fire from a car in New York City, New York.

At around 9 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a 911 call for a vehicle on fire. According to CNN, the car was located in a residential area in Queens, not too far from the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Firefighters were able to remove the child from the burning car, but her severe injuries led to her death after she was taken to Jamaica Hospital in Queens. According to NYPD Detective Annette Shelton, the New York City Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death.

Law enforcement says the girl’s biological father, Martin Pereira was a short distance away, at a nearby pond trying to put out the flames on his body, CNN reports. The 39-year-old man was taken into custody; he sustained severe injuries, but he is expected to survive. He walked away with burns covering his entire body. The mother has been identified as Cherone Coleman, 36.

Witnesses say they saw Pereira take off out the car and jump in the pond. Reports show Pereira tried to tell fire fighters his daughter was in the car. The New York Post reported that the girl, named Zoey, was strapped into her car seat in the back. The rear doors were chained shut from the inside to prevent anyone from getting in, and the interior was doused with gasoline.

Police report the father and the child’s mother have been dealing with an ongoing custody battle. Coleman told police that Pereira threatened to hurt their daughter hours before the fire. “You’ll never see your daughter again,” Pereira allegedly told Coleman. However, Pereira has also accused Coleman of improper parenting. “He was calling me a drug dealer and a drug addict,” Coleman told the Daily News. She denied the allegations to the staff, but he was still allowed to leave the hospital with the girl.

“They let him leave with her because he had all the paperwork stating he had visitation,” Coleman said. Both parties had filed domestic incident reports against one another. So far no charges have been filed, according to Queens County district attorney’s Office.

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