Slain baby's dad reacts to tragedy
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
OCALA -- A lawyer who represents the father of 6-month-old Jonah Mendoza issued a statement on Saturday saying, “There are no words to adequately express the devastation” the family is experiencing.
Jonah was shot and killed by his mother Friday morning. The mom, Melanie Reyes, shot herself as well. But she survived and remained hospitalized Saturday afternoon.
“There are no words to adequately express the devastation of the Mendoza family and friends regarding the death of little Jonah Mendoza, such a young and vibrant child who had many years of life and happiness ahead of him,” reads the statement, which the Ocala law office of Christina Miller issued.
The three-paragraph, single-page release added Jordan Mendoza loved his son “very much” and wished to be a part of his son's life “as every good father does.” It notes Mendoza had been involved in litigation regarding Jonah's best interest.
Mendoza thanked everyone for their love and concern and asked to be left alone during his time of grief. His attorney provided two photos showing Jonah with his father.
The litigation to which the statement referred was a paternity petition Mendoza filed in August. He sought a custody plan of some sort. Reyes wrote an emotion-filled letter to the court offering some visitation for Mendoza but also accusing him of being dishonest, unreliable and unsupportive.
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. Detectives have so far classified the case as an attempted suicide/homicide.
The shooting was traumatic not only for family and friends but also for the men and women on the first responding team.
Joe LaCognata, a volunteer Marion County chaplain and founder of Fire Rescue Support, a nonprofit organization that supports fire rescue officials, said the mood at the hospital was “very quiet, very somber,” with some people “almost in a daze.”
“Unfortunately, this is their world. It has a strong impact on them. Many of them have children,” he said.
LaCognata, who only briefly met with the rescue officials at the hospital and was not at the scene, said he told them he was there for them if they needed any counseling.
First responders went to the home -- at first -- to do a well-being check. Reyes had posted a suicide note on Facebook, and concerned relatives called police.
Once at the house authorities found Reyes and the baby in a back bedroom. No one else was home.
On Saturday, the home and surrounding neighborhood was quiet. Reyes, 20, remained at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Capt. Robert Sandlin, acting bureau chief for the Marion County Sheriff's Office Special Investigation Unit, said Saturday that if Reyes survives, then she will be charged with murder.
If she survives but is incapacitated, law officers will review the case with the State Attorney's Office and determine options.
In the meantime, he said, detectives have collected all the evidence needed in the case and are talking with family and friends. They are particularly interested in recent events and all other information needed to piece together what led to this tragedy.
In addition to the ongoing battle over Jonah in family court, Reyes also faced prosecution in criminal court for a domestic dispute involving another man. She was arrested on Dec. 20 and accused of striking Marcelino Febo with a small baseball bat.
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