A woman living in an apartment complex in southeast Fresno, California, who shot her two children, the father of the children and a cousin before shooting herself, took a video of herself with her iPad smoking methamphetamine before the shootings.
The woman, Aide Mendez, 23, had earlier had a row with the 33-year-old father of her two children Eduardo Lopez. The Washington Post reports that one of the neighbors of the couple Jesus Gonzalez, said that shortly before 7 a.m., he heard gunshots and then a pounding on his door. According to Fresno Bee, Gonzalez looked through the peep hole and saw Mendez stabbing Lopez with a steak knife. He also saw a seven-year-old girl running out of the apartment screaming.
The Washington Post reports Gonzalez said: “I opened the door and he (Lopez) fell in front of me, and I take him and I pull him inside." Gonzalez said that as he tried to pull Lopez inside, Mendez came and tried to pull him out. Gonzalez said he shouted at Mendez: “Hey, what happened, what happened?” The woman ran off and Gonzalez called the police.
When police arrived at the Silver Lakes apartment, they found Lopez outside with knife and gunshot wounds, and soon after a shot came from the first-floor of the apartment. When the police got into the house they found Mendez had shot her partner's cousin Paul Medina, 27, her two children, Aliyah Echeverria, 17 months, and Isaiah Echeverria, 3.
According to the police, Mendez shot herself and her children in the bathroom. The children were found in the bathtub. Isaiah was dead when the police entered the house but Aliyah was only barely alive. Police officers tried to resuscitate the child and took her to hospital where she died.
According to Lt. Mark Salazar, homicide commander for the Fresno Police Department: “We do know that drugs played a key role, but we don’t know to what extent. 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.”
Police found 10 grams of meth, $8,000 in cash and three firearms in the apartment. Two of the weapons had been used in the killings and police confirm that Mendez was the only shooter in the incident. Police say the iPad video was taken a few hours before the killings. Salazar said: “Her actions just seemed bizarre; her mannerism, the way she was moving her hands and her facial expressions."
Police are puzzling over the primary motive of the killings. Salazar said: “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."
The mystery over the motive of the killings is complicated by the fact that neighbors say there were no indications of violence in the family before the Sunday shootings. According to Gonzalez: “They would come out with the baby carriage, and the man was taking care of his children." According to another neighbor Lizeth Gonzalez: “It just really gets you thinking about how a mother could just grab her kids and kill them. I never thought it would happen here. Whatever she did, I hope God can somehow forgive her.”
Fresno police say, however, that they have been called to the apartment a number of times over the past two years for minor disturbances they did not consider serious enough to call the Fresno County child protective services.
Fresno Bee reports that Deputy Chief Keith Foster, at a news conference Monday, confirmed that a 7-year-old girl, a family friend staying overnight, escaped unharmed. Foster, evidently shocked and baffled by the incident, said: "I don't know what led up to this. I'm not familiar with any incident where a mother kills her children, then commits suicide."
Police are hoping that the girl who escaped unhurt will provide vital evidence. According to Forster, police have interviewed the girl who Fresno Bee reports was sleeping in the living room when she was awakened by the disturbance. According to Forster, "She may be young, but she's extremely bright, articulate and courageous."
The Washington Post reports that family members say Mendez lost a baby several years ago and had not recovered from the loss.