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Investigation continues into death of 2-year-old girl left in hot vehicle

Police investigation continues into hot car death of 2-year-old girl
Police investigation continues into hot car death of 2-year-old girl

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Juana Perez-Domingo remained in a Miami-Dade County jail Monday night.

She is facing a manslaughter charge as police continue to investigate the death of 2-year-old Joselyn Mendez, who died when she was left in a hot car on Friday.

Investigators discovered the child’s mother was paying Perez-Domingo $40 a week to take the child to daycare and the suspect picked up the girl around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

The mother told police she noticed there wasn’t a car seat in the suspect’s vehicle for her daughter, but Perez-Domingo, 43, told her she was driving to her home nearby first and would then place her daughter in a car seat.

According to her arrest report, Perez-Domingo took the toddler inside her home and then placed her in the third row of the minivan shortly before 8 a.m. – again failing to place her in a car seat, but strapping her in with a seatbelt.

Police said Perez-Domingo claimed that she got distracted and went back into her house, forgetting about the girl.

Authorities said Perez-Domingo returned to her minivan around 3:15 p.m. and saw that the toddler was unresponsive.

But instead of calling 911, police said Perez-Domingo called the girl’s mother and told her that her daughter had died and drove the girl’s body back to the mother’s home.

Police said the mother called 911.

Perez-Domingo is now facing a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

Sadly, Mendez’s case is all too familiar.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 children died last year in hot car deaths. In 2019, 53 children died.

About 46 percent of the time children were forgotten, someone thought they were dropped off at school or daycare.

Hot car deaths have sparked proposed legislation to add layers of protection against these kinds of incidents.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed into law that daycares are required to have alarms in their vehicles to alert them if someone is left in the backseat.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue stresses that caregivers should make it a routine to check their backseats.

“Heat is extremely dangerous for children, whose body temp can rise three to five times faster of an adult,” said Maggie Castro with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

As for Perez-Domingo, she faces up to life in prison if convicted, and the possibility of additional charges.

Perez-Domingo is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Local 10 also discovered she was driving without a license.

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About the Authors:

Bridgette Matter joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in July 2021. Before moving to South Florida, she began her career in South Bend, Indiana and spent six years in Jacksonville as a reporter and weekend anchor.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.