Melissa Castillo DeLoatch, 32, was named on a GoFundMe page launched by her cousin that’s raising money to pay for her burial and the treatment her family will need in the wake of Wednesday afternoon’s fatal attack.
Police allege that Jason Mendez, a 35-year-old from Washingtonville, New York, was behind the wheel of the vehicle that deliberately plowed into DeLoatch, her husband, Sean DeLoatch, and their six children, one of which was an infant in a stroller.
ABC News reports family members said DeLoatch was pregnant, and that she threw herself in front of the stroller Wednesday trying to protect her youngest child from the approaching car.
According to authorities, after running down the family, Mendez allegedly reversed, backing his vehicle over the injured family, and then running over them a second time.
Police identified DeLoatch on Thursday, but are withholding the names of the couple’s children.
“Melissa’s life was taken by an aggressive driver that ran her and her children over at a 7-11 in Garneville [sic], NY,” the GoFundMe page explains. “Melissa did what any mother would have done and tried to protect her children. She was a true hero. Melissa was full of love, smiles, life and so much more. All of us are going to miss you beyond words can explain.”
The page adds: “Any donation is truly appreciated. All funds will go towards her burial and the care of her children. 3 children are still hospitalized and the other 3 will need to see other doctors.”
DeLoatch’s husband, 35, and a 2-year-old child were rushed to Westchester Medical Center with critical injuries while the other children — who ranged in age from one to 10 years old — were also hospitalized, but their injuries were not deemed life-threatening.
Mendez has been charged with second-degree murder, along with seven counts of attempted murder and single counts of menacing, criminal weapons possession, and resisting arrest. Information on his lawyer was unavailable Tuesday.
He has pleaded not guilty and remains in police custody.
Witnesses claim the violence followed an exchange between the suspect and the father who had asked that the driver not “blow smoke in my children’s face.”
After arriving on the scene, officers found a disfigured stroller and the driver, who was holding a knife, police said at a news conference.
The driver allegedly refused to drop the weapon, prompting police to taser him and arrest him, officers said during the news conference.