Two days after Christmas, Darwin Santana-Gonzalez, a curly-haired 1-year-old, was toddling round a Bronx residence the place, the police mentioned, a potent combination of heroin and fentanyl was being ready, stamped and packed on the market.
The highly effective opioids had been positioned in packages, the authorities mentioned, together with a associated drug, acetylfentanyl, creating the type of lethal cocktail that has led to a surge of overdose deaths in the Bronx and past. Somehow, a few of the combine additionally ended up in Darwin.
By 10 a.m. that morning, the police mentioned, the little boy had stopped respiratory and was useless.
Darwin’s mother and father, who had flagged down police as they tried to hurry him to the hospital, had been charged in January with a number of counts of drug possession, however his father fled the nation. On Wednesday, the police introduced that his mom, Daira Santana-Gonzalez, who was in custody, had been charged with homicide in her son’s demise.
Darwin’s demise is a reminder of the pitiless energy of fentanyl, a drug that may kill youngsters even simply by coming in prolonged contact with their pores and skin. It will not be identified how Darwin ingested the medication.
Fentanyl variants will be 50 instances stronger than heroin and have appeared in New York combined into quite a few medication, together with these offered as pure heroin, cocaine and prescription tablets.
“The amount of fentanyl it would take to kill you or me would fit on the tip of your baby finger, and a small child would be much more susceptible,” mentioned Bridget Brennan, the metropolis’s particular narcotics prosecutor.
Just two days earlier than Darwin died, two mother and father in Michigan had been charged with homicide in the demise of their 18-month-old daughter, Ava Floyd, who had ingested fentanyl. The authorities found proof of drug manufacturing and distribution inside their residence, news reports said.
In all, the opioid crisis in the United States claimed the lives of almost 9,000 children and adolescents from 1999 to 2016, researchers from Yale University reported in a study in December. While most of the deaths were ruled accidental, some were ruled homicides. About 7 percent of the children who died from overdoses, the researchers found, were younger than 5 years old.
Ms. Santana-Gonzalez’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
In March, Ms. Santana-Gonzalez told The Daily News in a tearful interview on Rikers Island that she was not aware of any drug activity in her home. She said her husband had been abusive, and that he had fled shortly after Darwin’s death.
“Everyone knows I loved Darwin,” she said. “I would never do anything to hurt my son. l loved my son.”
Frances Gomez, 25, who lives in the building, said he was smoking in the lobby on the morning of Dec. 27 when he saw Darwin’s father, Modesto Antonio Gonzalez, rush outside with his son’s lifeless body in his arms.
“The father was crying and saying, ‘I can’t believe it. My baby, my baby, oh my God,’” Mr. Gomez said in an interview on Wednesday. Mr. Gomez said he had held Darwin in his arms briefly while his parents scrambled from the apartment to a car. The image of the infant, blue and foaming at the mouth, haunted him for weeks.
In recent years, the Bronx has become the center of New York’s opioid crisis.
In 2017, the Bronx overtook Staten Island as the borough with the most fatal drug overdoses, with 363 of the city’s record 1,487 fatal overdoses. About 60 percent of victims were Hispanic, mirroring the overall demographics of the borough, according to a Columbia University study of the opioid crisis in the Bronx.
Prompted by the overall increase in city drug deaths, in 2017 Mayor Bill de Blasio launched HealingNYC, a plan to spend $60 million to combat the problem. Outreach workers have widely distributed naloxone, the overdose antidote; the city has also printed posters that warn New Yorkers about the dangers of fentanyl.
But while these efforts have helped tamp down the number of fatal overdoses in most parts of the city, deaths have continued to climb in the Bronx. In 2017, the overdose death rate per capita in the South Bronx was higher than any place in the nation other than West Virginia, according to city health officials.
Illicit fentanyl is typically smuggled into the Bronx by mules working for Mexican cartels, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York, which seized more than 500 pounds of fentanyl in the city in 2018. The vast majority of it was found in the Bronx.
The drugs are prepared and packaged not only for Bronx users but for distribution throughout the city and region. Distributors include large-scale traffickers but also small, household operations.
Darwin, the police said, lived with his parents in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx, in an apartment that the police said appeared to house that sort of operation.
Roberto Guillen, the building’s superintendent, said in an interview on Wednesday that he had been in the apartment a week before Darwin’s death to make a repair in the kitchen and did not see evidence of drugs.
“Everything was normal there,” he said. “I feel bad because she was a nice lady.”
Two other people, Jose Furman Gonzalez and Chayenne Mendez Rodriguez, suspected with helping to prepare drugs in the apartment, were also charged with drug possession. They are believed to have fled to the Dominican Republic, along with Mr. Gonzalez, investigators said.
Laura Dimon and Ashley Southall contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
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