Father Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison for Drowning His 4-Year-Old in a Church Baptismal Pool

Father Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison for Drowning His 4-Year-Old in a Church Baptismal Pool

A California father has been sentenced to 11 years in prison after he drowned his 4-year-old daughter in the baptismal pool of a Catholic church in 2016.

According to ChurchLeaders.com, Gerardo Mendoza had been smoking methamphetamine for three days when he began to believe that his two youngest children were “being attacked by evil.” He took them to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Healdsburg, California, on Nov. 20, 2016, to find a priest.

When he couldn’t find a priest, investigators said he took his daughter and his 9-year-old son to a cross-shaped baptismal pool. He said he believed the “holy water would get the devil out of their bodies.”

He told police he drank the holy water and told his children to drink the water, too. The baptismal pool was about a foot deep.

It’s unclear how long they were in the church, but that night he took her to a nearby police station asking for help. She was soaking wet.

The 4-year-old girl, Maria, had lost consciousness and later died.

Mendoza’s son was not injured.

The 11-year sentence issued by a judge was part of an agreed-upon plea deal to lower the charges to manslaughter. Mendoza was previously facing trial on murder charges, which could have put him in prison for 25 years to life, the Press Democrat reported.

“Certainly, I’m going to give you the maximum allowed by law based on what I read,” said Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Robert LaForge. “There were a couple [of] things that were concerning. Your statement was concerning, minimizing. I want you to know that.”

LaForge was referring to statements Mendoza made where he said he gave his daughter water but never submerged her underwater.

Mendoza was sent to a state hospital for mental treatment in 2017 and released into police custody in 2019.

At two court hearings over the years, Mendoza has become emotional and shouted, “Why did I do it?”

Photo courtesy: iStock/Getty Images Plus/Allan Swart

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.