California father arrested for allegedly drowning his 4-year-old daughter in baptismal pool

HEALDSBURG (KRON) — A Healdsburg father has been arrested for allegedly drowning his 4-year-old daughter in a baptismal pool at a Catholic church, police announced Monday.

Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz, 42, was heard yelling for police in the back lot of the Healdsburg Police Department at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, police said.

Officers responded and found Ordaz naked and holding the unresponsive girl, police said. Medical responders gave her CPR. She was then taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Officers learned that Ordaz was with his daughter and his 9-year-old son at St. John’s Catholic Church located at 208 W. Matheson St. before he was heard yelling at the police department.

The girl was taken to Healdsburg District Hospital where she was later pronounced dead. An autopsy will determine the cause of the girl’s death, but investigators believe she drowned in a baptismal pool, said Healdsburg Police Chief Kevin Burke.

“We believe the 4-year-old girl drowned, the father is responsible, and it occurred inside the church in the baptismal pool,” Burke said.

The 4-year-old girl was clothed and the other 9-year-old boy was partially clothed. Burke did not say if the 9-year-old boy was put in the water at the church.

The water in the baptismal pool is about one foot deep. Police did take a statement from Ordaz, who lives with the children’s mother.

“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 from Ordaz and his 9-year-old son.

“They were the only ones in the church at the time. The church leaves the doors open late on Sunday,” Burke said.

Police performed a search warrant on the family’s home. They have not received any domestic violence calls coming from the family. This is the first homicide in Healdsburg within the last 8 years, Burke said.

“This is very unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it in my career,” Burke said.

Police will not confirm if the suspect has confessed.

Father Sean Rogers, who is the pastor of the church where the 4-year-old girl died, released a statement regarding the incident.

“Sunday night there was tragedy in the church; a little girl lost her life,” Rogers said in a statement. “When police finish the investigation we will know more. In the meantime, please pray for the family, and the parish community.”

Ordaz was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of murder. He will be arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon.

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