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3-Year-Old Dies Inside Burning Car in New York, Father Faces Charges

By Alan Cheung

A father has been charged after his 3-year-old daughter was found in Queens inside a burning car with its doors locked up with chains, WTKR reported.

One propane tank and two gas cans were found in the trunk.

Martin Pereira is facing charges of murder, arson, and reckless endangerment around two weeks after firefighters found Zoey Pereira inside the Audi sedan on fire.

Zoey was alive when the firefighters saved her from the burning wreckage, but later died in Jamaica Hospital.

The 39-year-old father was found near the crime scene severely injured, suffering from burns that covered 70 percent of his body.

The police said Pereira was in stable condition and that it’s not known whether he was in the car before the incident.

Police added that the New York medical examiner will determine Zoey’s cause of death.

‘You’re Never Going To See Your Daughter Again’

Cherone Coleman, 36-year-old mother of Zoey, told the New York Daily News that Pereira was starting to become mentally unstable during their custody battle over their daughter.

The judge turned down Coleman’s request to modify Pereira’s visitation rights.

The court allowed Pereira to leave with Zoey for the weekend on May 4 and 5. This was the second time he was able to spend time with her ever since Coleman and Pereira separated.

Coleman said that she wished she had done things differently.

“I should’ve just kept her and gone to jail,” she said, the Daily News reported.

On May 4 Pereira took Zoey to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park and allegedly claimed that the mother was abusive toward Zoey.

“He was calling me a drug dealer and a drug addict,” Coleman said.

She denies those allegations and added that Pereira repeatedly called her on the morning of May 5, but she refused to answer.

Since he couldn’t get through to her directly, he called a relative of Coleman who then contacted her.

She finally spoke with Pereira later that day and heard him say things that caused her to panic.

“Just before he burned my daughter he called saying crazy things,” Coleman said. “I couldn’t even understand some of them, but he said, ‘Do I have your attention now, [expletive]? I got your attention now, [expletive]. You’re never going to see your daughter again.'”

Coleman called emergency services and reported that she had argued with her ex-partner and the possibility of harm that might come to Pereira and her daughter.

That was when firefighters found Zoey in the back seat of the Audi sedan.

Pereira’s clothes were on fire and a passerby brought a blanket to put out the fire on him while someone else told him to go to the nearest pond.

Coleman also blamed Pereira’s family, accusing them of contributing to the turmoil.

“He’s the [expletive] devil,” Coleman said. “He’s the devil. His family is responsible too. They have called ACS on me so many times with so many lies.”

She added: “I can’t imagine the pain my baby went through. She was burned terribly, her bones were out and he ran off and left her to burn to death. Why would he do this to my daughter to get to me? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I want him to live, and suffer for what he did to my daughter,” she said.