These are the three young sisters who were shot dead by their drug addict father at the California church where he was living before he turned the gun on himself.
The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday identified David Mora-Rojas’ victims as Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10; Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9; Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13.
Also shot and killed was Nathaniel Kong, 59, who was an executive at The Church in Sacramento, and who was chaperoning the three sisters to the visit because the girls’ mom – Mora-Rojas’ ex-girlfriend – had obtained a restraining order against him.
Samantha would have celebrated her 11th birthday on Wednesday.
Officials said Mora-Rojas, 39, was under a restraining order from his longtime girlfriend and not supposed to have a gun, which he used to shoot his three daughters, their chaperone and himself at 5pm on Monday.
Three sisters killed by their father at a Sacramento church have been identified as (L to R) Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9; Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10, and Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13
David Fidel Mora-Rojas, 39, was not supposed to have a gun because of the restraining order against him from his girlfriend and was on a supervised visit with his three children at the church on Monday afternoon
A memorial for the three Gutierrez sisters is seen outside The Church in Sacramento on Tuesday. Mora also killed his daughters’ chaperone before committing suicide
Kong was an executive with the nondenominational Christian church who had served Mora with that restraining order in May.
At the time of the killings, Mora was out on bail after being arrested last week on several charges, including assaulting a police officer.
On Tuesday night, neighbors organized a candlelight vigil at the church to mourn the three Gutierrez sisters, reported ABC10.
Samarah, the youngest of the slain sisters, was described as kind and loyal.
‘If I didn’t have anyone to play with, she would be there for me, and if I got sad or hurt, she would be the one to help me,’ her friend Estella Hernandez said through tears.
Samantha (center) would have celebrated her 11th birthday on Wednesday
Samantha, pictured as a younger girl, was described as a keen reader by those who knew her
Samantha, the middle child, was said to be an eager reader who always had a book in her hand, and Samia, was described by a friend on Facebook as being ‘full of light.’
A GoFundMe campaign that has been launched by the girls’ aunt has drawn more than $31,000 in donations as of Wednesday.
Sgt. Rod Grassmann, spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, called Mora’s decision to shoot and kill his children ‘unfathomable.’
Oscar Maldonado, a friend of the family, told CBS Sacramento that Mora was a hard-working but aggressive man who was battling drug abuse and mental health issues.
‘He was very emotional, like really emotional,’ Maldonado said.
Court documents paint a disturbing picture of verbal and physical abuse inflicted by Mora on his estranged girlfriend, who is the mother of their three daughters.
Mora ‘is a very jealous person,’ the woman wrote in her request for the restraining order. ‘He threatened to kill me if he ever caught me cheating… He has choked me in the past.’
She said he told her he hadn’t killed her ‘because he would not know where to go with the children.’ In the filing, she said he might flee to Mexico, where he had family.
‘I am scared and nervous. I am afraid (Mora) is going to hurt me. I do not want to return home,’ wrote the woman, whose name was withheld because she is an abuse victim.
The woman also said he was hospitalized for a week in April after ‘expressing a desire to commit suicide.’
The horrific attack started at around 5.10pm on Monday when officers were called to the ‘The Church in Sacramento’ in the Arden Mall area of the city, reported ABC10.
The shooting happened in the main room of the small church. Emergency services were alerted after an employee at the church who was upstairs heard gunshots and called 911.
A huge police presence built up outside the church where the shooting took place
Multiple people were killed in a shooting on Monday at a church near the California capital of Sacramento, CBS13 television reported, citing the Sacramento Metro Fire department
A large police presence could be seen gathered outside the church in the Arden-Arcade area
Police vehicle could be seen positioned outside of the church early on Monday evening
Residents watch police activity following a shooting at a church in Sacramento, California
People look over a fence towards a church following a shooting in Sacramento
Police block off Ethan Way and Wyda Way after a shooting at the Church in Sacramento
A father killed four, shooting three of his children before killing himself at the church in Sacramento
A sheriff’s deputy puts up crime scene tape following the shooting
A police officer can be seen putting up crime scene tape following the shooting on Monday
A five-year order was imposed May 19. It stipulated Mora only have supervised visits with his daughters for up to four hours per week with a mutually agreed-upon chaperone. He also was required to take anger management courses.
Authorities have not disclosed what type of weapon was used.
Mora, who also was identified as David Fidel Mora Rojas in court papers, was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation last April 17, and nine days later a temporary restraining order was granted.
His legal troubles continued recently, as Mora-Rojas was arrested in Merced County on DUI charges by CHP Los Banos on Feb. 22, 2022.
He was booked into the Merced County Jail on charges of DUI Alcohol, Driving Under the Influence with a Blood Alcohol over .08, Battery Against a Peace Officer, Obstructing / Resists Public Officer, and Battery on a Peace Officer with Injury.
‘He was drunk and while they were arresting him — or trying to — he decided he wanted to fight and ended up with felony charges because he assaulted a CHP officer, causing injuries,’ Deputy Daryl Allen, a spokesman for the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, told The Sacramento Bee.
He was bailed out on February 24.
Sgt. Grassman from the city’s sheriff’s office said he did not know if the family members belonged to the the church, which sits on a mostly residential block near a commercial area east of downtown Sacramento, CBS13 reported.
It wasn’t immediately known how many people were at the church or if there were any services or activities at the time of the shooting.
Investigators believe the shooting happened during a supervised visit for the father inside the church with the children and a chaperone who also was killed.
The church is known to hold Bible study classes for children and teens, although none were scheduled for Monday.
The three girls went to Bannon Creek Elementary School and Leroy Greene Academy in the Natomas Unified School District, which issued a statement.
‘There are very few words that can give comfort right now for this unspeakable tragedy,’ the district said Tuesday. ‘There will be a range of emotions from our students and staff, particularly at the schools where the students attended.’
So far, a possible motive for the shooting had not been released but the sheriff’s office said it was a case of domestic violence.
Police officers investigate the scene of a shooting at the church
Police investigate a shooting at the Church in Sacramento near Wyda Way and Ethan Way in Sacramento on Monday
Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies stand by police tape that blocks the street leading to a church where a shooting occurred with multiple victims, in Sacramento on Monday
Neighbors Samantha Sanchez and Nick Martinez watch as police officers investigate the scene of a shooting at The Church in Sacramento
Sgt. Rod Grassman from the city’s police force also confirmed there was a fifth person killed, however it is unclear if that person was also a family member
‘Another senseless act of gun violence in America – this time in our backyard. In a church with kids inside. Absolutely devastating,’ said California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
‘Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and their communities. We are working closely with local law enforcement.
‘Our thoughts are with the community, parishioners, and all those impacted by this horrific event.’
The Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg, also tweeted about the incident on Monday night.
‘This is an unspeakable tragedy. It happens too often, and tonight it happened in our backyard. First thoughts are with the victims and their families. Same to the first responders who have to confront such a horrible scene.’
The shooting took place at a church on the outskirts of the California state capital in the Arden Mall area of the city (pictured, file photo)
‘Another senseless act of gun violence in America – this time in our backyard. In a church with kids inside. Absolutely devastating,’ said California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement
The Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg, also tweeted about the tragedy on Monday night
It wasn’t known what connection Mora might have had to the church, which is in a residential area. Neighbors said the shooting occurred quickly and police swarmed the area.
Sandi Davis said she was taking her dog outside when she heard a gunshot. She immediately let go of the leash and dropped to the ground to protect herself.
Yadira Ortega, who lives across the street from the church, said she heard gunfire while sitting in her car after returning home from picking up takeout dinner for her family. She was with her 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Ortega said there were multiple shots, then a pause before a final shot.
Ortega said she knows little about The Church in Sacramento other than it’s busy on Sundays but mostly quiet during the week.
A man who emerged from the church several times to talk to reporters outside said the church is made up of multiple buildings, including a living space where he and several other members live.
The man, who only gave his name as Alfredo, said he was in the church´s main building when the shooting happened and that neighbors called police because he did not have a phone.
Ana DeJesus, right, is comforted by her daughter, Lizbeth DeJesus after placing a teddy bear and flowers on a memorial
Ana DeJesus, right, places a teddy bear on a growing memorial at The Church in Sacramento, Calif.
Flowers are seen outside the The Church in Sacramento Tuesday
The entrance to the parking lot at The Church in Sacramento, Calif., is shown on Tuesday, March 1
A teddy bear, balloons and flowers are among the items left at growing memorial at The Church
He declined to provide more details, saying church elders planned to issue a statement later.
On Tuesday morning, a small memorial with flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, a candle and a piece of paper that read ‘Prayers for peace, may your souls rest’ was set up outside the church.
Faith Whitmore, chief executive of the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, said the girls’ mother sought help through the agency last April. A case manager and an attorney worked with her to obtain the restraining order.
‘She came in, she needed crisis intervention, she needed resources, she needed help,’ said Whitmore, who did not work directly with the woman.
Whitmore said their organization will now push for their other clients to have visits supervised by professionals, and they plan to seek out funding to cover the costs.
Joyce Bilyeu, deputy director of the center, also did not work directly with the woman. She spoke generally about supervised visitations, saying the specifics can vary widely.
Sometimes, a victim will request that a pastor or grandparent be the chaperone in their home or church, she said. Other victims seek professional supervision with a trained mediator in a safe location close to law enforcement, but that option can be costly, Bilyeu said.
Bilyeu said visits in places like churches can give victims a false sense of security.
‘Generally a lot of people think a church is a safe place,’ she said. But ‘there´s no metal detectors in a church.’
A restraining order, while a typical part of the process in domestic violence cases, should not be considered a solution or deterrent to abuse, she said.
‘It is not a shield of armor,’ Bilyeu said.