SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The mother of the three children fatally shot by their father at a church in Arden-Arcade on Feb. 28 spoke publicly for the first time Monday.
Ileana Gutiérrez shared her thoughts at a news conference Monday in favor of state Senator Susan Rubio’s (D-Baldwin Park) Senate Bill 616, or Piqui’s Law, which aims to protect children from domestic violence as parents separate and divorce.
“This is something that no one should go through. It’s something really horrible to go through something like this because of negligent people,” Gutiérrez said in Spanish. “I would just like for there to really be a law that protects children as well as mothers because this should not keep happening.”
She said she blames a broken system and a judge who didn't take someone's mental health issues seriously.
This bill could have saved Gutiérrez’ daughters, Rubio said, had it been law at the time.
“In this particular case, the mother of those three little girls had gone to the judge and had shown evidence of escalating behavior,” she said. “The fact that the evidence is being ignored is what we’re dealing with here...(The girls' father) himself said ‘I have mental health issues. I don’t feel that I am safe around my children.’ And they still allowed him to see his children.”
Piqui’s Law would mandate training about domestic violence and child abuse for judges and others involved in child custody court proceedings “to be educated on how important it is to put the safety of children first,” Rubio said, adding that “victims and their children may be at greater danger during separation and when they have restraining orders.”
In April 2021, Gutiérrez had filed for and been granted a restraining order against her estranged partner, 39-year-old David Mora Rojas. In that document, she said he’d been verbally and physically abusive for the past decade. Rojas had also been hospitalized earlier that month after threatening to harm himself and Gutiérrez.
He took his own life on Feb. 28, 2022, right after killing his three daughters - Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10; Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9 and Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13 - and 59-year-old Nathaniel Kong, the chaperone supervising the visit between Rojas and his kids at The Church in Sacramento in Arden-Arcade.
Rubio hopes Piqui’s Law passes the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which hears the bill on Tuesday. The proposed law’s fate rests in the committee members’ hands.
“This is about parents that have the evidence,” Rubio said, adding that concerned parents would still have to prove their case against their ex-partner in court. “This is about tightening the law – not about disadvantaging a good parent.”
At Monday’s news conference there were signs with hundreds of silhouettes of children, representing the more than 800 kids nationwide since 2008 who have been killed by a parent in the middle of a divorce or separation. Nearly one in 10 of them, Rubio said, were killed in California.
They include 5-year-old Aramazd Andressian Jr., known to his family as "Piqui." His father murdered him in 2017, after the boy’s mother – Ana Estevez – made repeated attempts to provide evidence to the judge of her ex-husband’s abusive behaviors.
“Once again, the evidence was ignored. My request for sole custody with supervised visits was denied. And eight days later, my ex-husband murdered my son,” Estevez said at the news conference Monday.
"The system failed them,” Rubio said. “We need to get serious about saving lives!"