A mum of six — pregnant with her seventh child — died defending her kids from a driver who intentionally rammed them after her husband asked him not to smoke near the family, relatives said Thursday.
The New York Post reports that Melissa Castillo DeLoatch “took her body and threw it in front of the stroller to protect the children” from the 2013 Infiniti Jason Mendez allegedly sped toward them outside a New York 7-Eleven at about 2pm on Wednesday, said Melissa’s aunt, Charlene Rodriguez.
Police believe an argument between the family and the driver, identified as 35-year-old Jason Mendez, of Washingtonville, may have precipitated the attack in the parking lot.
A 7-Eleven employee said that Mendez was smoking outside the store and became enraged when the father asked him not to smoke around the kids, some of whom have asthma.
An argument ensued, which the worker says came to an end when Mendez got into his car and ploughed into the 7-Eleven, striking the entire family.
After mowing down DeLoatch, husband Shawn, and their six kids — ranging in age from 11 months to 10 years — Mendez reversed and ploughed into them again, killing the mum, prosecutors allege.
“She did what any parent would do,” said Ms Rodriguez. “She’s an angel and she’s a hero.”
But even the 32-year-old mum’s heroics weren’t enough to fully protect her three youngest, who were piled into the stroller.
“They took the brunt,” said Ms Rodriguez, explaining that DeLoatch’s two-year-old daughter had a concussion and needed leg surgery, while her three-year-old son suffered a lacerated liver.
They, along with their 11-month-old sibling and their father, remain hospitalised, while the three oldest children escaped serious injury.
“Her life was her children,” said Ms Rodriguez, adding that the couple had recently learned a seventh child was on the way. “It’s been a nightmare, one the whole family wishes we could wake up from.”
The dad bared his pain on Facebook.
“Killer u killed my wife lover best friend mother of my 6 kids my world,” he wrote in a post. “I f**king hate u.”
Ms Rodriguez asked why Mendez — charged with murder, as well as resisting arrest for pulling a razor blade on police and forcing them to Taser him — couldn’t just walk away.
“He should have stepped a few feet away, but he chose to be evil,” she said.
A GoFundMe campaign has already raised $US30,000 for DeLoatch’s family.
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and is republished here with permission