‘It was an accident,’ says mom of Durham child found dead in van

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Family members of the Durham girl found dead in a vehicle were emotional as they remembered her during a news conference Wednesday morning.

“It was an accident. I love my daughter,” the child’s mother Rocio Ramirez (Rocio Murillo-Estrada) said through an interpreter.

Durham Police said 3-year-old Leslie Ramirez was found dead inside a van in an apartment building parking lot.

Police say the incident is a suspicious death.

Leslie Ramirez.
Leslie Ramirez.

A family member found the child just after 7 p.m. Monday in the 1100 block of Hearthside Street.

Family members said she had been in the van since 3 p.m. It was around the same time they returned home after running errands.

The mother, grandmother, siblings, and another adult were all present in the van and later got out.

Tears flowed from several family members on Wednesday as they held on tight to what’s left of Leslie Ramirez, just pictures.

Both parents were crying today as they talked about what happened.

“He found her very weak, to the point that when he pulled her out, her last breath was right there,” said Chaplain Ricardo Correa, a family representative.

A spokesman for the family says it wasn’t until the father came home from work, four hours later, when anyone noticed Leslie was still in the van.

“He thought he could save her. Imagine that,” Chaplain Correa said.

Her mother says it was truly an accident.

“I love my daughter,” said Rocio Ramirez (Rocio Murillo-Estrada). “A mother would not like to kill her children,”

While Durham police continues an investigation, the family is making plans to bury Leslie.

“It’s not easy because it was such an unprecedented accident, especially for a mom that has five kids,” said Chaplain Correa.

In the meantime, the family is working to raise at least $5,000 for Leslie’s funeral.

Leslie’s father is having a tough time dealing with the death of one of his five children.

Rene Ramirez, Leslie’s dad, is struggling to come to grips with the devastating loss of his child.

“She was so special, so beautiful.”

Ramirez says his wife is distraught and on Tuesday afternoon, an ambulance arrived for Leslie’s mother and later took her away.

Her family says the mom is sick and in shock after her daughter’s death.

“She’s in the room. She doesn’t want to talk to anybody,” the grieving father said.

Meanwhile, 911 calls were released on Tuesday.

Caller: “I think they left her in the car.”

911 operator: You think they left her in the car?

Caller: “Yeah. I was outside and I just saw them screaming and trying to break the windows to the car. Yeah, I think she’s dead.”

A small memorial has appeared for Leslie in the driveway.

Homicide investigators are working on the case and police say an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator E. Ortiz at (919) 560-4440, or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.

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