NEW YORK (WABC) -- The operator of a Bronx day care, her husband and his cousin were all indicted Thursday on charges of murder with depraved indifference to human life in connection with the death of 22-month-old Nicholas Dominici, who the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined died of fentanyl exposure.
The day care was a front for drug trafficking, prosecutors said.
"This is a catastrophe, our sorrow is matched only by the outrage because these babies were used as shields to protect a narcotics operation," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said.
Grei Mendez, 36, Felix Herrera Garcia, 34, and Carlisto Brito, 41, were charged with second-degree murder, criminal possession of a controlled substance, manslaughter, assault and child endangerment.
Mendez and Brito pleaded not guilty -- Nicholas' mother wailed aloud when Mendez appeared. Garcia was awaiting arraignment later Thursday.
On September 15, 2023, inside the Morris Ave. day care, four children were poisoned by exposure to fentanyl, prosecutors said. First responders used Narcan to revive the other three children but could not save Nicholas, who was 22 months old.
"I understand that justice will be done," Nicholas' father Otoniel Feliz said. "It will not bring my son back."
Feliz's hand shook as he showed a photograph of his son and his voice broke.
"We trusted this day care because everything was going OK," Feliz said. "Every single day the lady in charge sent text messages to my wife. We trusted her because she kept us updated. We never imagined this was going to happen."
He said he feels betrayed because Mendez had made them feel like she was going to be like a mother to their son.
A kilo of fentanyl was found in the closet of the day care. Six kilos of fentanyl-heroin and other controlled substances were found beneath a trap door concealed by a padded mat where the children napped, prosecutors said.
Investigators revealed Thursday they found an unopened package of Narcan in a medicine cabinet at the day care.
Prosecutors also shared a new image of the drugs in a hidden compartment beneath the floor and a photo of the play mat beneath which there was a trap door that concealed additional narcotics.
"This case is the bleakest reminder that we must be relentless in removing drug traffickers from our community," the district attorney said, adding her office would be taking aim at day care centers run out of private homes.
"We will get justice for them," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. "But what we have to do is make sure this never, ever happens again to any other child."
Law enforcement sources told ABC News that Mendez removed her own toddler from the day care out of fear he would succumb to fentanyl exposure but never alerted authorities to her concerns.
(ABC News contributed to this report.)