What to Know
- A driver has been arrested after plowing into a family outside a 7-Eleven store in Rockland County, killing a 32-year-old pregnant mother
- Six of the victims were a baby and children; they're expected to be OK
- Police said the driver intentionally rammed into the family after an argument; he had to be stunned and arrested at gunpoint
The 32-year-old pregnant mother of six who was killed earlier this week when an enraged driver plowed into her family outside a New York 7-Eleven is being called a hero.
Melissa DeLoatch's mother, Joan Christopher, told News 4 Thursday that her only daughter had thrown herself in front of the car to shield her children, who were all hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries along with their father.
"My grandchildren call her 'the hero,'" Christopher said. "'Mommy is the hero.'"
The man who allegedly deliberately rammed into the family outside the convenience store on Central Highway in Garnerville Wednesday afternoon, 35-year-old Jason Mendez, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and other crimes. Witnesses said he plowed into the family, then reversed and ran over them again, after the father asked him not to blow cigarette smoke in the kids' direction. He was arrested at gunpoint when he refused to drop a knife.
Christopher is devastated by the loss.
"She wasn't only my daughter, she was my best friend," Christopher said. "Four years ago, I buried my son. Now I have to bury my daughter. No parent should have to do that because of an animal."
A vacate order was posted on the store early Thursday, and people were stopping by to leave flowers and candles. Christopher said the support is much needed as the DeLoatch children try to pick up the pieces without their mother.
Mendez's attorney said in court Wednesday that his client had just lost his cellphone repair job a week ago. Mendez himself said nothing to reporters as he was led from a police car and into the courthouse in handcuffs.