Vigil Thursday, funeral Saturday for Baby Jonah

Officials, first responders ask, 'Why?'

Melanie Reyes shot and killed her baby, Jonah Mendoza, and then herself in the home where they lived at 4836 NW 45th Court in Ocala on Friday.

File photos
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 7:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 7:51 p.m.

As family members and friends prepare for Thursday night's candlelight vigil for the 6-month-old boy shot to death by his mother, authorities who worked this tragedy are being offered time off and counseling so they can recover emotionally.


If you can help

A service/memorial for Jonah Mendoza will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wyomina Park Baptist Church, 1411 NE 14th St., Ocala.
After the service, there will be a graveside service at Good Shepherd Memorial Gardens, 5050 SW 20th St., Ocala.
After the graveside service mourners will gather back at the church. Those in attendance can bring food and refreshments.
There are three ways to help Jordan Mendoza pay for the arrangements:
• During a candlelight vigil beginning at 7 p.m. tonight on the Ocala downtown square, donations will be accepted. Call event planners Sierra Hutton at 817-3020 or Amanda Lucas at 502-5109 for more information.
• A PayPal account has been established
• A fundraiser will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at AMF Galaxy West, 1818 SW 17th St., Ocala. Bowlers pay $12, which includes shoe rental.

On Jan. 4, Melanie Reyes, 20, shot and killed her son, Jonah Mendoza, at the northwest Ocala home where she and the boy lived. Reyes, who was pregnant, also shot herself. Family members disconnected life support Tuesday.

Joe LaCognata, a volunteer Marion County chaplain and founder of the nonprofit Fire Rescue Support, met some members of the ambulance crew Sunday and some Marion County Fire Rescue officials Monday.

In general, he said, they are "doing well," but the question on everyone's mind remains, "Why?"

He said some personnel were very frustrated as to why Jonah was the innocent victim.

"Unfortunately that's a question we can't answer," LaCognata said.

At the hospital, he said, paramedics were crying and grief-stricken.

"They were counseling and comforting one another. The emotions were very raw," he said. He described the scene as "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," LaCognata said.

Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said Wednesday her agency had no prior reports or allegations of Jonah being abused. But it did receive a call on the abuse hotline shortly before 5 p.m. Jan. 3 concerning domestic violence between Reyes and Jordan Mendoza, the father of Jonah, that may have occurred on Jan. 1 and in late December.

Reyes was listed as the person with whom an investigator needed to talk. Nothing in the report indicated she was suicidal or threatening Jonah. The report was coded with a 24-hour response time, prompting an investigator to commence a review.

On the morning of the shooting, DCF investigator Rich Luger went to Reyes' home and knocked on the door but got no response. Luger walked around back but didn't see anyone. Before leaving, he met a woman who had arrived to check on Reyes because she had not seen her in a couple of days.

Luger left. A short time later DCF officials were notified about the shooting.

Hoeppner said that as standard protocol, Luger was placed on administrative leave to give him an opportunity to step away from the situation. He has since returned to work.

She said her agency was not aware while Luger was at the home that Reyes had posted on Facebook that she was going to kill Jonah and herself.

Sheriff's deputies Timothy Ogletree and Robert Youmans Jr., who arrived at the home to conduct a wellness check after 911 dispatchers were called about the Facebook posting, were outside when they heard shots fired. They broke in to find Reyes and her child. They declined to comment for this story.

Judge Cochran, the Sheriff's Office public information officer, said counseling was made available to both men and that all those on scene were debriefed. He said Ogletree and Youmans were given the weekend off. Additional counseling and time off are available if they need it.

In her report, Deputy Pamela Race spoke about seeing a baby "covered in blood" on a stretcher heading into Ocala Regional Medical Center. Medics "were conducting life saving measures." Entering the emergency room, she noticed hospital officials "working on both of them," meaning Reyes and Jonah.

A fire-rescue employee told her that while he was in the ambulance with Jonah, he "had to cut the baby's clothing off in order to conduct life saving measures."

The blue onesie with white stars was lying on a bench inside the rescue unit, soaked with blood, her report said.

A service/memorial for Jonah will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wyomina Park Baptist Church.

After the service, there will be a graveside service at Good Shepherd Memorial Gardens.

A vigil for Jonah is set for 7 p.m. Thursday on the downtown square. Donations will be accepted to help pay for Jonah's burial. A PayPal account has been set up to help with those expenses, and a bowling fundraiser will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at AMF Galaxy West.

Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118 or

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