Three children under the age of 9 were allegedly killed by their mother in a possible murder-suicide attempt on Wednesday in California, authorities say.
Patricia Ortiz, 31, of LeGrand, is accused of killing her son Matteo Ortiz Lara, 5, and his two sisters Anna Ortiz Lara, 8, and Alexa Ortiz Lara, 3, before inflicting wounds upon herself, according to a statement from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
After being transported to a local hospital for her injuries, Ortiz was taken to the Merced County Jail, where she was booked on three counts of murder.
An official cause of death for the children has yet to be determined. Officials are also looking into a motive.
Merced County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Daryl Allen told reporters Wednesday that the tragedy will be hard on the small farming community, KMPH reports. He hopes authorities can bring some closure for the family in wake of the incident.
“Le Grand is a very small-knit community, I want to call it a family. I’m from this area and a small town with a population of 16,000 people you know this is something that is going to be very very hard for the community. Everybody knows everybody here,” Allen said.
A memorial of toys, flowers and candles has since formed outside of the Le Grand apartment unit where the trio of children was killed, ABC 30 reports.
Deputies discovered the scene on the 13000 block of Brice Street while responding to a welfare check at the residence just after 2 p.m. local time, according to Wednesday’s statement.
The sheriff’s office believes Ortiz’s husband, who is also the children’s father, was first to find his wife and children after the incident, per ABC 30.
Allen told reporters that officers received reports of a man “yelling for help” upon arriving on scene, CBS 42 reports.
So far, Allen said that Ortiz has “been cooperative” and has “spoken with the detectives” about the case, according to ABC 30.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to pay for funeral expenses for the three deceased children. As of publication, more than $24,000 has been raised toward the $30,000 goal.
“Heaven gained three beautiful Angels on January 12th. How to express the pain of the loss of these three beautiful children,” wrote Lynna Granados, who organized the fundraiser. “Anna Daniela, Matteo and Alexa were happy, full of life and loved by all who knew them. Our only consolation is knowing that are at peace in the Lords presence.”
She added, “The family would like to thank the community for your support and ask to lift the family in prayers as we navigate this difficult time.”
An investigation into the incident is underway.