PERDIDO KEY, Fla. (WALA) - The father of a 2-year-old girl who police say died after her mother left her in a van for several hours spoke of his devastation Friday, as he works to understand his daughter's tragic death.
Joy Monell-Merritt died Wednesday afternoon after police say her mother, Jessica Monell, left her inside a van for several hours while Monell was inside her Perdido Key apartment sleeping. Joy, investigators say, was in the scorching hot van for several hours.
"My heart is broken," Joy's father, Donald Merritt said. "Something I'm really having a hard time trying to compute, it doesn't make any sense."
Merritt says he shared a special bond with his daughter - a bond built on friendship and love.
"I don't think anyone has ever taught me that much about life in such a short time; about what love is," Merritt said. "She had a huge heart."
Merritt told FOX10 News he didn't live with Monell, but saw Joy frequently, and looked forward to every chance he had with his daughter.
"I would put a guitar on her lap and she would just play it," Merritt said, fondly remembering all of the opportunities he had to wake up next to his young daughter.
“She was my best friend, she loved me, she loved me a lot, she taught me a lot about life and about love and she still is.”
Police haven't released a cause of Joy's death, stopping short of calling the tragedy a 'hot car death' until an autopsy is completed. Joy, according to Merritt, had just celebrated her second birthday.
Monell remains behind bars, charged with aggravated manslaughter, child neglect, and three counts of drug possession. Merritt, despite his disbelief with the circumstances surrounding his daughter's death, knows the tragedy was a horrible accident.
Merritt says Joy's family intends on having a private service to remember her life.