FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – A woman who shot her two young children, their father and a cousin in California’s Central Valley before committing suicide took video of herself on her iPad as she smoked methamphetamine prior to the killings, police said Monday.
The apparent murder-suicide by 23-year-old Aide Mendez began Sunday morning when she argued with the father of her two children, 33-year-old Eduardo Lopez.
After neighbors called police to report trouble, officers arrived to find Lopez outside the Silver Lakes Apartment with knife and gunshot wounds, said Lt. Mark Salazar, homicide commander for the Fresno Police Department.
They heard a muffled shot from inside the first-floor apartment and discovered Mendez had killed herself, her boyfriend’s cousin, Paul Medina, 27, as well as her two children, 17-month-old Aliyah Echeverria and Isaiah Echeverria, 3.
Police told The Fresno Bee they found Mendez in the bathroom, and found the children in the apartment’s bathtub, where they had been shot at least once. The boy was found dead on the scene, Salazar said. Police tried to resuscitate the girl but she later died at a nearby hospital.
“We do know that drugs played a key role, but we don’t know to what extent,” Salazar said. “She was seen prior to the shooting smoking methamphetamine. She recorded herself on an iPad showing her and Paul Medina smoking meth. We know the power of meth.”
Salazar said the time stamp on the iPad video would have to be tested but preliminary information indicated it was recorded within a few hours of the murder.
“Her actions just seemed bizarre; her mannerism, the way she was moving her hands and her facial expressions,” Salazar said, noting other drugs may have been involved but that it would take weeks before the toxicology reports were complete.
Lopez remained in critical condition Monday evening at Community Regional Medical Center with stab wounds and a gunshot wound to the neck, said Mary Lisa Russell, a hospital spokeswoman.
A 7-year-old neighbor girl who was in the apartment escaped unharmed.
Authorities said Monday they had yet to piece together a motive, but said family members reported that Mendez had lost a baby several years ago, and was still grieving over the loss. Police recovered 10 grams of meth, $8,000 in cash and three firearms in the apartment; two of them used.
“There’s some things we just don’t know because most of the people in that house are dead and the one person who is alive can’t speak right now,” Salazar said.
Jesus Gonzalez told KFSN-TV, an ABC affiliate in Fresno, that shortly before 7 a.m. on Sunday he heard gunshots and then a pounding on his door. He opened the door to find Lopez bleeding profusely.
“I opened the door and he fell in front of me, and I take him and I pull him inside,” Gonzalez said. He said that before he could drag Lopez inside, Mendez tried to pull him back outside again.
Gonzalez said he shouted at her, “Hey, what happened, what happened?” and she ran off.
The family lived in the back of the gated apartment complex in southeast Fresno, which has neat lawns, trees and a children’s playground.
Neighbors said there was no indication of violence between the couple before Sunday’s shootings.
“They would come out with the baby carriage, and the man was taking care of his children,” neighbor Eric Gonzalez said.
Another neighbor said Monday residents were shaken by the shooting, and still struggling to comprehend what had happened.
“It just really gets you thinking about how a mother could just grab her kids and kill them,” Lizeth Gonzalez, a mother of three small children who lives in the complex. “I never thought it would happen here. Whatever she did, I hope God can somehow forgive her.”
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