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October 24, 2014

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Driver in deadly Fla. day care crash in custody

Image

Florida Department of Corrections / AP

This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Robert Corchado.

Daycare Crash

A Florida state trooper, center, escorts a group of parents to a day care center to pick up their children after a vehicle crashed into the center, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Winter Park, Fla. At least 15 people were injured, including children. Launch slideshow »

WINTER PARK, Fla.— The SUV driver accused of causing a car to crash into a Florida day care, killing a 4-year-old girl and injuring 14 others, most of them children, surrendered to authorities Thursday.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office tweeted that Robert Alex Corchado was in custody at the jail. Corchado's attorney, Jack Kaleita, confirmed it, but refused to comment further.

"He had nowhere to go," said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Wanda Diaz.

The surrender came a day after police say Corchado, 28, crashed his Dodge Durango into a convertible, which in turn smashed into the KinderCare building. Authorities — and the mother of the little girl who was killed — pleaded for the suspect to give up, even as they blanketed the state searching for him.

Authorities did not immediately announce charges against Corchado, but he already has a long criminal history. Nicole Quintus, whose daughter Lily Quintus was killed, said he was responsible for heartbreak.

"Families are emotionally destroyed because of what he did," she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The mother softly sobbed as she spoke of her daughter. She said Lily loved princesses, "Star Wars," the TV series "Doctor Who" and ranch dressing on seemingly everything she ate — even pizza and hot dogs. Lily was sitting at a table waiting for her afternoon snack when the car crashed into the building, and Nicole Quintus said a teacher called her soon after, screaming but unable to say what happened.

"One minute everything was normal and the next there was an explosion and smoke and screams," she said.

The girl's 7-year-old brother is an aspiring engineer who wants to design a time machine to bring Lily back, the mother added.

"She was beautiful and passionate and innocent," the mother said, "and she deserved so much more."

Lily was on the minds of those who turned up at the day care, where the gaping hole was boarded up with plywood and a cluster of stuffed animals, flowers and candles were left in memoriam.

Ralph Velez, 48, left a stuffed bear from his 5-year-old son Xavier, who goes to the day care but was unhurt. The bear was a gift from a few Christmases ago, and Xavier — who can't stop talking about the crash — wanted to give it to honor his friends, Velez said.

"He'll say, 'stupid car,' or 'stupid driver,'" Velez said. "He told us last night that he remembers the driver, who wasn't hurt, getting out and saying, 'What did I do? What did I do?'"

Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care's playground Wednesday. Several of those injured were carried out on stretchers. Parents were later seen waiting to pick up their children, then clutching them in their arms as authorities escorted them to their vehicles.

Corchado has been arrested eight times since 2000.

Department of Corrections records show he served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion. He most recently was arrested in December on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was due back in court in May.

A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Corchado hung up. Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Cindy Williams said Corchado was linked with the Latin Kings gang and could have been aided by other members.

Ten people remain hospitalized from the crash, including one child who remains in critical condition and two others who are listed in serious condition, according to the patrol.

The day care's website says the center provides childcare for children up to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.

Sedensky reported from West Palm Beach, Fla.

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