A father is suspected of drowning his 4-year-old daughter in a baptismal pool at a Catholic church in Healdsburg, Healdsburg Police Chief Kevin Burke said this afternoon.
Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz, 42, was found by Healdsburg police naked and screaming for help in a back parking lot of the police station on Center Street around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Burke said.
His daughter, who was clothed, and his partially-clothed 9-year-old son were with him, Burke said. The girl was unresponsive and after attempts to resuscitate her, she was rushed to Healdsburg District Hospital where she was pronounced dead 90 minutes later. An autopsy was conducted Monday, but Burke said he did not know the results.
Burke said he cannot say if the boy also was placed in water at the church.
Ordaz and his son told responding police officers they came from the St. John’s Catholic Church about 75 yards away, Burke said:
“We believe the 4-year-old girl drowned, the father is responsible, and it occurred inside the church in the baptismal pool.”
The water in the baptismal pool is about a foot deep, Burke said.
Ordaz was arrested for homicide and is being held under no bail in the Sonoma County jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Sonoma County Superior Court.
Police took a detailed statement from Ordaz, who lived with the children’s mother and four children, and from their mother. The family lives in unincorporated Sonoma County near Healdsburg, Burke said:
“We cannot disclose a motive at this time, but we determined it was not accidental.”
Burke said the child’s death is considered a homicide based on evidence at the church and statements by Ordaz and his son:
“They were the only ones in the church at the time. The church leaves the doors open late on Sunday.”
Police served a search warrant on the family’s home, Burke said, and he is not aware of any domestic violence related calls for service at the home.
The last homicide in Healdsburg was in December 2008, Burke said:
“This is very unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it in my career.”
Ordaz explained why he was at the church, but Burke said he could not disclose that information.
Healdsburg police will consult the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on the investigation and the information that will be released, Burke said.
Sonoma County Superior Court records show Ordaz was convicted of disturbing the peace by fighting in public in Healdsburg on June 4, 1998. He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to credit for time served.
Ordaz also pleaded guilty to a felony burglary in Healdsburg that occurred on July 11, 1996. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and one year in jail with 188 days credit for time served.
He violated his probation by failing to report to a probation officer, and was sentenced on July 30, 1998 to two years in prison on the burglary charge and another offense.