The mother of the three-year-old girl who perished in a car fire in Queens on Sunday night spoke out about the horror—and also took the opportunity to slam her ex-fiance, who is currently in police custody. Cherone Coleman told the Daily News, "I always thought he was going to hurt me. I never thought he was going to hurt my daughter."
Coleman says that she and her ex, Martin Pereira, were fighting over custody of their daughter Zoey Pereira. According to the News, "Coleman [explained] that the girl’s vindictive dad, Martin Pereira, had become unhinged in recent weeks as they battled over Zoey’s custody. Coleman said she had gone to court to modify their visitation agreement, but a judge denied her request. Against her wishes, but with the court’s blessing, she said, Pereira left with the girl for a weekend visit on Saturday and Sunday. It was only the second time he had been entrusted with Zoey since she and Pereira broke up, Coleman said."
On Sunday night, authorities responding to a 911 call found a car burning in Springfield Gardens, at 154th Street and Baisley Boulevard. Inside the backseat was Zoey. Firefighters weren't able to immediately open the car doors because the back doors had been chained shut; it was only when the handles melted that the doors could be opened and the girl removed from the car. The three-year-old was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Pereira was only found after witnesses told police that a man who had been on fire had left the car and was at nearby Baisley Pond Park. He was treated for second- and third-degree burns at Weill Cornell Hospital, where the NY Post reports he is currently sedated with burns over 70% of his body. He has not been charged, and one police source tells the Post that Pereira is currently unable to speak.
The custody battle was bitter, according to Coleman, who told the News that on Saturday, Pereira took Zoey to a Long Island hospital, claiming that Coleman had abused her. She said, "He’s the fu---ing devil. He’s the devil. His family is responsible too. They have called ACS on me so many times with so many lies."
A co-worker of Pereira's told the NY Times that he was worried about the custody fight (the couple was due in family court yesterday): "There was a lot of stress building up in [Pereira]. It made him explode up like that."
Coleman, in her interview with the News, added that Pereira called her repeatedly on Sunday, but she didn't take the calls until after Pereira called one of her relatives. She said, "Just before he burned my daughter he called saying crazy things. I couldn’t even understand some of them, but he said, `Do I have your attention now, bitch? I got your attention now, bitch. You’re never going to see your daughter again.'"
Zoey's death has been classified as a homicide. One of Coleman's sisters told the Post, "I hope [Pereira] f-king dies... I’m just being honest. I hope he dies."