Merced County Sheriff’s deputies say the three children found dead Wednesday in a Le Grand apartment were killed by their mother who then tried to kill herself.
Patricia Ortiz, 31, from Le Grand is accused of killing her three children: Anna Ortiz Lara, 8, Matteo Ortiz Lara, 5, and Alexa Ortiz Lara, 3.
After killing them, Ortiz attempted suicide, deputies say.
Deputies said they were able to give Ortiz life-saving medical treatment on-site and take her to a local hospital.
Ortiz will be booked on three counts of murder.
Sheriff deputies responded to the 13145 Brice St. apartment at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday to conduct a welfare check. A person was said to be outside the complex, screaming for help.
Deputies then found the bodies of the children.
A woman who lived nearby, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety, told the Sun-Star she had heard Ortiz’s husband on Wednesday screaming for help, saying “Help me, my kids.”
She went inside Ortiz’s apartment and others at the scene asked her to call 911.
The woman went in the kids’ rooms and saw all three were dead. “The husband was going crazy. A gentleman was helping (Ortiz) while she was in the tub. She’d slit her wrists and was bleeding. A guy was helping her trying to make sure she was alive,” the woman said.
The woman said it looked as if the children had been dead for at least a few hours, although deputies have not confirmed that’s correct.
“They were cold and just gone. Their lips were already blue,” she said.
The woman said she was told by the dispatcher that she should do CPR on the kids. “We put the little boy down on the floor on his back and the guy proceeded to do CPR.”
The woman said that prior to Wednesday, the victims had walked to school in the morning with other children in the apartment complex. She said she didn’t suspect any child abuse before Wednesday.
Ortiz and her husband had separated during the summer last year, according to the woman, and neighbors offered to help her get help. “They actually insisted many times. They saw her distraught many times over the marriage.”
She added “I believe this is mental health. All her mental health. I really do.”
Deputy Daryl Allen, Merced County Sheriff’s spokesman, on Wednesday said family members came to the scene after the incident happened.
He also said to have an incident like this happen in Le Grand, a relatively small community, comes as a shock to many.
“Le Grand is a very small town, it’s a very tight-knit town,” Allen said. “I can tell you that from living here for a long time. This whole town — I’m going to call it a family — everybody in this town knows everybody. So when something like this happens it affects everybody.”
Le Grand Union Elementary School District sent out a statement to parents in the aftermath of the killings. Some of the victims attended school in the district.
“The Merced County Sheriff’s Office notified Le Grand Elementary School District officials yesterday afternoon that several students were involved in a tragic situation off-campus. Sadly, those students have passed away. Our school community is heartbroken by this tragedy, and we grieve for this enormous loss,” the statement read.
“The details of the situation are still unfolding, but whatever they are, this event is very traumatic for our children, staff, and families. It is heartbreaking to lose a student under any circumstance. We have grief counselors on campus to support students, staff, and parents as needed. Le Grand is a strong and resilient community, and we will work together to process this tragedy.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for the children’s funeral expenses.