Eighteen inches by 18 inches by 18 inches.
It’s not a lot of space, but authorities say that was the size of a wooden storage chest where two small children — one just over 3 feet tall, the other just over 2 feet — were found Saturday morning unconscious and not breathing in their East Naples condominium.
Five-year-old Ethan Herrera and his sister Lilianna, who was supposed to celebrate her fourth birthday on Saturday afternoon
, were rushed to the hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The chest had a locking mechanism and was made of brown wicker with a plywood lining, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Sheriff’s officials continue their death investigation, interviewing family members and doing tests on the wooden chest. Autopsies were conducted Sunday, but the results have not been released.
An investigator said the case was being worked as a potential homicide, which is standard for death investigations. Nothing had changed by Monday, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Karie Partington said.
When reached for comment, Ethan and Liliana’s 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Herrera, said the children’s mother and father, Susan and Jorge Herrera, both loved their kids and would never hurt them.
“Never, never, never,” Jessica Herrera said.
She said it has been a difficult few days for family members, many of whom have gathered at her grandmother’s home to grieve and to support the parents. Jessica Herrera said her cousin’s name is Lilianna, not Lillina, which was reported by the Sheriff’s Office.
She said it’s not surprising that Lilianna would be found with Ethan.
“Lily always followed what he did,” Jessica Herrera said. “She looked up to him a lot. I can see her following what he does, and doing what he does.”
According to an incident report, by the time deputies arrived several people, including Jorge Herrera, were gathered at the condo. The children were lying beside one another on the floor with vomit next to each child.
The parents are currently separated, and are getting a divorce, the report said. Both Susan and Jorge Herrera are cooperating with investigators.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has also started an investigation.
“We don’t have any prior reports or prior involvement with this family,” agency spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said.