North Bay father Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz has been arrested and charged on suspicion of murder after yelling for police Sunday night outside the Healdsburg police station. He was naked and holding his unconscious, but clothed, four-year-old daughter. His partially clothed nine-year-old son was at his side.
Ordaz allegedly drowned the little girl in a baptismal fountain at the Catholic church about 75 yards across from the police station, according to authorities cited by the San Francisco Chronicle.
It was about 8:30 p.m. when officers encountered Ordaz in their station’s parking lot. The young son with Ordaz was initially reported as uninjured, but a later report in the Press Democrat indicated the young boy had sustained harm in connection with the child abuse charge.
“Our local Catholic church leaves the door to the premises unlocked late on Sundays for parishioners to go in and do legitimate worship,” said police chief Kevin Burke, the Chronicle reported.
Burke said that the murder is the first reported in the area since 2008. A crime report for the Healdsburg Police Department lists the estimated time of the alleged murder as around 8 p.m.
A search of the family home that was completed on Tuesday produced no significant evidence, and the nine-year-old boy is believed to be the only witness to his sister’s death. The Press Democrat reported that Ordaz has criminal convictions for burglary from 20 years ago and misdemeanor fighting in public.
Ordaz faced a Sonoma County judge on Tuesday to be charged with murder and felony child abuse, according to the Press Democrat. The official charges came the same day that police revealed the little girl’s name, Maria Jose Ordaz‑Chavarria. Police were seeking the help of the public in retracing Ordaz’s steps surrounding his daughter’s death.
Judge Arthur Wick has ordered a psychologist to evaluate Ordaz per his lawyer’s insinuation that Ordaz may have been incompetent at the time of the girl’s death. Sonoma County Jail records indicate Ordaz is scheduled for a Monday morning hearing at 8:30 a.m. and that as of Wednesday no bail had been set.
The local news outlet reported that Monday night’s search of the church premises produced clothing belonging to Mr. Ordaz and his son near the baptismal pool, according to police Lt. Matt Jenkins. Jenkins can be reached with information.
The Ordaz family – mother, father, little Maria, and her three siblings – moved from Sacramento to Healdsburg about six months ago, according to the Press Democrat. The mother’s niece told the local outlet that her aunt has another child on the way.
Mr. Ordaz was described as a day laborer, and the mother is reportedly not working.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.