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Police, Medical Examiner Investigate Death of Bronx Toddler

By  Ben Fractenberg and Leslie Albrecht | October 19, 2012 7:35pm | Updated on October 20, 2012 4:25pm

SOUTH BRONX — Police are investigating the death of a toddler who was found unconscious in her family's South Bronx apartment Friday afternoon.

A family member identified the child as 3-year-old Cristal Sanchez.

An acquaintance of Cristal's mother found the toddler unconscious and unresponsive at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, police said. She was rushed to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Police were questioning both the mother and the acquaintance on Friday afternoon, an NYPD spokesman said. On Saturday, a Medical Examiner's report determined that the girl's death was yet to be determined pending further investigation in a joint effort by the ME's office and the NYPD.

A relative identified the mother as Jacqueline Perez, and said she lived with a man named Hilton who was like a father to Cristal and her 6-year-old brother.

"He was a nice guy, that's why I'm so surprised this happened," said Pastora Noe, a cousin of Perez's. She added, "I'm really worried about [Cristal's] brother. They were together all the time. He's going to need help."

Noe said she wasn't aware of any violence or abuse in the household, and said Perez didn't believe in physically punishing her children.

Neighbor Gabriela Zarate, 18, said Cristal's "step-father" was attentive to kids in the building, taking time to play with children and recently putting up Halloween decorations with them.

"He seemed to be friendly and caring to kids," Zarate said. "He was really patient with kids."

On Friday evening a heartbreaking memorial of candles and a white teddy bear had been placed outside the family's apartment building on Longfellow Avenue between West Farms Road and East 167th Street.

The building's superintedent said he saw paramedics try to revive Cristal with shock paddles. "I saw the firemen shock her," Paco Perez said. "It's so sad."