The mother of a 3-year-old girl who died after being trapped inside a burning car with the doors chained shut accused the child’s father of killing their daughter after sending her a threatening text message.
On May 5, New York firefighters found 3-year-old Zoey Pereira in a burning tan Audi A6 in Queens.
The heat of the blaze eventually broke the latch on the chains and the responders were able to retrieve Zoey from the backseat, PIX11 reported.
FDNY firefighters also found two fuel canisters and a propane tank inside the car.
Pereira was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, but she was pronounced dead soon after arriving.
Witnesses saw a man who was later identified as Martin Pereira, the girl’s father, running away from the car.
"The fire caught on him, also maybe he was running for his own life," witness Owen Johnson told PIX11.
"She was still a little bit alive, but I could tell the time range and the time the FDNY came, she was burned.”
The New York Post reports police later found Martin, 39, in his underwear and hiding near Baisley Park Pond.
“The only reason [cops] found him was that a piece of his clothing was on fire. He was stripped down to his underwear,” a source told the Post.
After the girl’s death, her mother, Cherone Coleman, revealed Martin sent text messages threatening to kill Zoey.
“Just before he burned my daughter, he called, saying crazy things,” Coleman,36, told the New York Daily News. “I couldn’t even understand some of them, but he said, ‘Do I have your attention now, b—-? I got your attention now, b—-. You’re never going to see your daughter again.”
Coleman said after she received the texts she immediately called police, but she did not know where Zoey and Martin were located.
“I always thought he was going to hurt me,” Coleman told the Daily News. “I never thought he was going to hurt my daughter.”
Coleman said she’d recently separated from Martin, which sparked a fiery custody battle between the two. Last week, a judge granted Pereira a weekend visit, a decision Coleman said she wishes never happened.
“I should’ve just kept her and gone to jail,” she said.
Coleman said Zoey “was perfect, loving, always smiling, and oh so caring.”
“She was my only child, and I can’t have anymore,” she told the Daily News.
Although Martin Pereira was taken into police custody, he has not been charged with a crime. He is currently in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
(Photo: NY PIX11)