Deputies: Ocala baby dead, mom injured after attempted murder-suicide
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 4, 2013 at 7:06 p.m.
OCALA - A 20-year-old woman shot and killed her 6-month-old son Friday morning and then turned the gun on herself, authorities said.
Melanie Reyes was listed in critical condition Friday afternoon at Ocala Regional Medical Center. Her child, identified by authorities as Jonah Mendoza, was pronounced dead shortly after 1 p.m.
The shootings happened at a home in the 4800 block of Northwest 45th Court, which is in a subdivision northwest of the Interstate 75-U.S. 27 intersection.
Capt. Robert Sandlin, acting bureau chief for the Marion County Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division, called this an attempted suicide/homicide.
"At this point in the investigation, we feel confident Melanie Reyes is solely responsible for this unfortunate incident," he said.
Detectives said Reyes lived at the home with her mother and stepfather. The firearm — a handgun — was recovered.
Authorities said Reyes' biological father and stepmother, who live out of state, called the Sheriff's Office at 11:18 a.m. because of a suicide post seen on Reyes' Facebook page.
Deputies went to the home and found Reyes and the baby in a back bedroom. No one else was home.
A neighbor said Reyes has been living in that home with family on and off in recent times.
Jonah was born June 14 at Munroe Regional Medical Center, according to his birth announcement.
On June 29, after receiving a call from Reyes, deputies responded to a home in the 4300 block of Northwest 80th Avenue. Reyes had a dispute with the child's father, Jordan A. Mendoza, because she would not allow him to hold the baby.
No one was arrested. The incident report notes that Mendoza became upset, so Reyes left. It also noted he was kicking Reyes' car as she drove away.
Mendoza filed a petition in August asking the court to formally establish and recognize his paternity and arrange for a child visitation plan.
One month later Reyes responded vehemently in a letter to the court, accusing Mendoza of being irresponsible, untrustworthy and violent. She said he once tried to drive her off the road and said he drinks when he gets upset.
Reyes said she did not want Mendoza's name on the child's birth certificate.
"If he wanted the child to have his last name he should of thought about that and signed the birth certificate when he had the chance," she wrote.
According to Reyes' letter, Mendoza reneged on an agreement to put $30 per paycheck into a special account for the child.
"He may buy stuff for the baby but I don't get it or take it," she wrote to the court. "I tried to make compromise with him but he doesn't like any of my offers. I let him see the baby two or three times a week for several hours but I do not let the baby stay the night with him alone, simply because I DO NOT trust him."
She went on to note that she was a good and caring mother to Jonah.
"I no longer want to live in this state nor country and I can't make a better life for me and my son because of Jordan," she wrote. "I need to (sic) and rather get out of this state to stay away from him."
She concluded: "I truly believe I have Jonah's best interest at hand since I've been there for him since Day 1 taking care of him and 9 months before."
Mendoza did not respond to Star-Banner inquiries regarding his relationship with Reyes.
In October, ahead of a mediation hearing the court ordered in the paternity suit, Reyes filed an affidavit saying she could not pay the $120 mediation fee. She said she had been unemployed since June 7 and was receiving food stamps.
The paternity matter was still pending, according to court records. A final hearing was scheduled for Feb. 21.
While that matter was playing out, Reyes also was doing battle in criminal court.
She was arrested on Dec. 20 and charged with aggravated domestic battery after being accused of attacking her boyfriend at the time, Marcelino Febo.
Febo told authorities the two had been arguing all day and that Reyes had been in the process of moving out, according to an arrest affidavit.
He said he went out to get something and Reyes approached him carrying a wooden baseball bat that was about 2 feet long. Febo said Reyes swung, hit him in the back, and then swung again and hit him on the wrist, the report said.
Reyes told authorities after her arrest that she and Febo had been arguing over the use of her car. She said Febo had thrown her to the ground and called her explicit names.
"She (Reyes) advised that the name calling continued and she got tired of it so she grabbed the bat and swung at him," the report said.
Reyes also told authorities that she had bitten Febo earlier in the day when the arguing first began.
Reyes posted a $2,500 bond the day after her arrest and was released from the Marion County Jail.
Among the court's conditions for her release: no ownership or possession of firearms, ammunition or other weapons.
Febo had a restraining order issued against Reyes following the arrest.
In October, Reyes and Febo had been evicted from their apartment at the Carriage House Apartments, 2701 NE Seventh St., Ocala. The landlord said they failed to make rent payments and pay late charges, according to a complaint filed with the court.
According to Sheriff's Office reports, when Reyes was 17 she and her mother had a dispute over household chores that led to a physical altercation. Reyes was sent to her room and was missing when her mother checked on her an hour later.
Deputies took a report, but after Reyes eventually returned to the residence her mother decided not to pursue the matter any further.
Attempts on Friday to reach Reyes' mother, Denise Elias, were unsuccessful.
Luis "Wicho" Martinez, who said he is a friend of Reyes', texted a message to a Star-Banner reporter late Friday. It read:
"Melanie Reyes is a prime example of a sweet smart loving young single mother, victim of neglect and domestic violence, some of the most serious issues being overlooked and ignored by too many in our society these days ... If not for the lack of resources in this country for these types of issues we would be saving many more lives as a society.
"Please, look at the big picture and help your loved ones out. If you can't help them find someone who can because a person with this kind of mentality obviously can sometimes no longer help themselves. My sincere love and condolences go out to Melanie and her family."
Staff writer Vishal Persaud contributed to this report. Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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