Police allege Joy died after her mother left her in the van, parked in the Florida sun.
PEOPLE confirms through online court records the girl’s mother, Jessica Monell, 36, was arrested last week and charged with homicide-neglect manslaughter, neglect of a child, three counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of drug equipment.
She remains in custody without bail. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Donald Merritt said he is having a hard time coming to terms with the loss of his baby girl.
“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,” Merritt said. “I don’t think anyone has ever taught me that much about life in such a short time; about what love is … she had a huge heart.”
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An arrest report obtained by PEOPLE alleges Monell left Joy inside a van as she slept for several hours — estimated to be as many as eight — in her Perdido Key apartment.
The arrest report alleges police discovered crystal meth and Xanax in Monell’s apartment.