A 35-year-old man is facing murder and attempted murder charges after being accused of purposely running over a family of eight, twice, with his car on Wednesday, killing the mother.
Haverstraw, NY, police believe that the tragic incident all started because the father told the suspect, identified as Jason Mendez, not to smoke in front of his six children while outside of a 7-Eleven in Rockland County, the New York Post reports.
Angered, police say Mendez got inside of his vehicle and drove into the family, before reversing and striking them a second time and driving into the 7-Eleven.
“His cigarette smoke was in the vicinity of the family and it seems to be the catalyst,” Haverstraw Police Capt. Martin Lund told the Post.
The 32-year-old mother, identified as Melissa Castillo DeLoatch, who was pregnant with her seventh child, died at the hospital, ABC7NY reports. The father, 35-year-old Shawn DeLoatch, along with the three youngest children, ages 11 months, 2 and 3, were seriously injured.
According to ABC7NY, the 2-year-old sustained the most serious injuries, suffering a broken leg and internal injuries. However, they are all expected to recover. The eldest three children, ages 5, 7, and 10–all from a previous relationship—were hospitalized but did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.
Melissa DeLoatch’s mother, Joan Christopher, said that her daughter died a hero trying to protect the kids.
“She took and threw herself in front of the stroller, in front of the car,” she said. “So she threw herself to protect her babies.”
After the crash, Mendez reportedly confronted officers with a knife, refusing to drop the weapon.
“He didn’t say anything initially to the police officers,” Haverstraw Police Captain Martin Lund said. “He refused to drop the knife. Then he was tased at the scene and taken down.”
On Wednesday, Mendez pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and seven counts of second-degree attempted murder. He is currently being held at the Rockland County jail.
Meanwhile, the DeLoatch family is dealing with the grief of losing a beloved wife and mother.
“Killer u killed my wife lover best friend mother of my 6 kids my world,” Shawn DeLoatch wrote on Facebook in a caption for a linked article about the incident, the Post reports. “i f–king hate u.”
We said i do y u leave me come home to ur husband and 6 kids baby please i need u i love n miss u
He also included a status update noting that the kids were “doing great” at the hospital.
A GoFundMe started by someone who identified themselves as Melissa DeLoatch’s cousin has raised more than $30,000 in about a day.