FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In tears, Jocelyn Melendez said she lost her two daughters in a fire in Pompano Beach and now authorities want to take away her son.
The 23-year-old distraught mother appeared in Broward County court on Tuesday. She was still mourning the loss of her 5-month-old baby girl, Abigail Espinoza, and her 5-year-old daughter, Sofia Melendez.
"I never imagined I would lose her. I lived with Sofia for two years of happiness. The same with Abigail," Melendez said in Spanish. "Abigail was my ray of light midst so many problems."
Authorities say Melendez left to work early Saturday morning and left her two daughters, Abigail and Sofia, and her 2-year-old son in the care of her 15-year-old sister, who lives with them.
Neighbors believe the teenage girl took the boy to a nearby store to buy milk, and she left the two girls home alone at the Banyan Club Apartments at 1850 NE 48 St. Neighbors said the fire started about 9:30 a.m.
"I saw my bedroom's window, and I lost all hope," Melendez said, adding that she was scheduled to work from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., and thought her girls were safe.
Before Pompano Beach Fire-Rescue responded to the third-floor apartment, Emmanuel Dupre said he used a fire extinguisher to break a window and yell to see if his neighbors were inside. He said he chose not to go inside when there was no response.
Firefighters arrived shortly after and discovered the girls' bodies inside the charred apartment.
"I never imagined this tragedy," Melendez said. "The truth is I don’t wish this on anyone. It’s something very painful."