Residents of Haverstraw, NY are in shock after a man plows into a family of eight outside a local 7-Eleven. The father and six children were all injured, while the mother received fatal injuries and died after being taken to the hospital.
Witness testimony recounts that the incident began a few moments before with an argument. 35-year-old Jason Mendez, the driver of the vehicle, was asked to not smoke near the children by their father. This appeared to anger Mendez, leading to a verbal confrontation with the children’s 32-year-old father.
After losing his temper, Mendez reportedly got into his vehicle, which was parked in front of the 7-Eleven. He then drove his vehicle directly at the family. After the initial strike, Mendez backed up approximately 20 feet, then drove forward into the family a second time.
Mendez remained on the scene, sitting in his car until police arrived. He brandished a knife as he sat in the car, refusing to drop the knife or exit the vehicle as instructed. Mendez was tased by officers and removed from the vehicle by force. He was arrested and faces charges for second-degree murder and seven attempted second-degree murder counts. Though the investigation is ongoing, Haverstraw Police posted to Facebook saying, “The investigation is still ongoing and it is anticipated that several additional charges will be filed.”
32-year-old Melissa Castillo DeLoatch was a mother of six, three from a previous relationship. Sadly, Melissa was also pregnant with her seventh child when attacked.
The children ranged in age from 11 months to 10 years old. The youngest three children and their father were the most seriously injured in the attack. The four were taken to Westchester Medical Center, all with non-life-threatening, yet serious injuries. The older children were taken to the closest local hospital where they were treated for lesser injuries.
According to reports, Melissa jumped between the car and the stroller in an effort to protect the younger children. Joan Christopher, Melissa’s mother, said her daughter was a hero because of her sacrifice for the children.
Family and friends have come together in response to Melissa’s death. A GoFundMe account has been started, reportedly by Melissa’s cousin, to raise money for the family.
Shawn DeLoatch, Melissa’s husband, also took to Facebook to express his grief and anger. “Killer u killed my wife lover best friend mother of my 6 kids my world. i f–king hate u.”
At his arraignment, Mendez pled not guilty to the charges against him. He is still held at Rockland County Jail.