On Sundays, the doors are left open at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Healdsburg, a small town of 11,000 in Northern California.
But on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 20, screams pierced the evening.
One block from the church, in the parking lot of the Healdsburg Police Department, officers responded to cries for help from Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz, 42, around 8:30 p.m. He stood naked, carrying his unconscious 4-year-old daughter in his arms.
Officers attempted to resuscitate Ordaz’s daughter and were unsuccessful. She was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead 90 minutes later.
After collecting and processing evidence and interviewing Ordaz and his son, detectives have ruled the girl’s death a homicide, concluding that he drowned his daughter in the still waters of the baptismal font. “They were the only ones in the church at the time,” Healdsburg Police Chief Kevin Burke commented. “We cannot disclose a motive at this time, but we determined it was not accidental.”
Sonoma County authorities performed an autopsy Monday, but results are pending. Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz was arrested the same day, charged with murder and ordered held until trial.
The family’s home is in an unincorporated area of Sonoma County nearby.