Salvador Sanchez-Orozco penned a suicide note before squeezing his 2-year-old daughter to death Wednesday and wrapping a dog leash around his neck in an attempt to kill himself, court records show.
The Tacoma-area man pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Thursday in the death of Daveena Sanchez. Pierce County prosecutors also included a special allegation that the victim was particularly vulnerable, which opens Sanchez-Orozco up to the higher end of the sentencing range if he's convicted.
Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered Sanchez-Orozco, 26, jailed in lieu of $2 million bail. He will be under suicide watch while in custody, at least initially. He also has an immigration hold and is barred from contacting his wife or her family, deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen said.
The Medical Examiner's Office has not released the toddler's cause of death but Sanchez-Orozco allegedly told detectives he sat the girl on his lap, wrapped his arms around her and squeezed until she stopped breathing.
"We never thought he'd do something like this," Frank Lima, the child's great-grandfather, said after court. "We never thought he'd go this far."
Lima said Sanchez-Orozco began acting strangely in the last month or so but refused to talk to anyone or let them help.
He finally asked for help Wednesday morning when he called 911 to tell a dispatcher he'd killed his baby girl. When deputies arrived at the Woodmark apartments on 96th Street South, Sanchez-Orozco opened the door for them with a bloody face and a dog leash tied tightly around his neck, according to charging papers.
Deputies tried to untie the ligature and then noticed Daveena's body in a nearby bedroom. She already was dead. Emergency responders cut the leash from Sanchez-Orozco's neck.
He told deputies, "I strangled her, I snapped," court records show.
A suicide note ranting about his wife's "behavior" and a threat to kill himself "and take my daughter with me" was found in the apartment.
Sanchez-Orozco was upset about questionable social media messages he'd discovered on his wife's account in January, authorities said. After an argument Jan. 11 and a decision to separate, Sanchez-Orozco's wife called deputies to their apartment after he tried to hang himself. He was involuntarily committed for a day and then released, authorities said.
His wife and daughter moved in with family members and struck an agreement with Sanchez-Orozco where he could have Daveena during the day while his wife worked, according to charging papers.
Family members said Wednesday Sanchez-Orozco had never shown signs of physical violence but talked about taking Daveena with him to Mexico.
"It's really shocking for everyone," said Bonita Todd, Sanchez-Orozco's sister-in-law.
He showed up at his wife's house Tuesday night and was upset to find another man there. He returned to the home Wednesday morning to pick up his daughter even though it was not his scheduled day, prosecutors said. His wife and her grandfather told investigators everything appeared normal.
A neighbor told detectives Sanchez-Orozco was "clearly upset" when he returned to his own home. He called 911 two hours later. Investigators believe he killed his daughter right away, carried her body to the bedroom and tried to perform CPR.
"The defendant murdered a child he's supposed to protect," Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. "This is domestic violence at its worst, killing a child to punish the mother."
Lima smiled when talking about his great-granddaughter climbing into his lap and asking him to read her books. Then he dissolved into tears.
"She's a sweetheart; she's full of love and joy," he said. "She was 2 years old. She's innocent."
The family is setting up a fund to accept donations to help pay for Daveena's funeral.