Father who murdered 3 daughters in California church was in US illegally

David Mora Rojas, 39.
David Mora Rojas, 39. | Merced County Sheriff's Office

The 39-year-old man who fatally shot his three daughters and their chaperone before killing himself inside the sanctuary of The Church in Sacramento last week was in the United States illegally, according to immigration officials.

David Mora, a Mexican national who murdered his own children, ages 13, 10 and 9, at The Church in Sacramento, was in the United States illegally, as his visa had expired, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Alethea Smock told The Associated Press.

ICE agents had not been notified about Mora, identified in documents as David Fidel Mora-Rojas, overstaying his visa because of California’s sanctuary law.

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“This unspeakable tragedy highlights the true cost, unintended or not, of sanctuary policies that prevent law enforcement from protecting its citizens,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones was quoted as saying.

Mora had been living at the church since he was released from a mental health facility last April after he threatened to harm himself and his estranged girlfriend, according to the AP.

His estranged girlfriend had been with him for about 15 years but had sought a restraining order against him last April. 

“He threatened to kill me if he ever caught me cheating. … He has choked me in the past,” the filing said, according to WJBF-TV, which quoted her as saying Mora “said that he has not killed me because he would not know where to go with the children.”

She also said Mora was hospitalized for a week last April after “expressing a desire to commit suicide.”

The order granted on May 19 limited Rojas to four hours weekly of supervised visits with his daughters with a mutually agreed-upon chaperone. He was also ordered to take anger management classes.

Court documents cited by ABC News show that Rojas was out on bail at the time of the killings after an arrest the previous week for multiple charges, including assaulting a police officer.

“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.

Rojas was arrested on Feb. 23, but he posted bail and was released after spending one night in jail.

His daughters were identified as: Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9; Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10; and Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13. The late chaperone was identified as Nathaniel Kong, 59. Business records show that he was an executive of the church.

In a statement published on the church’s website Tuesday, officials said the congregation was “devastated and heartbroken” by the tragedy.

“The leadership of The Church in Sacramento is shocked and saddened by the tragic shooting that occurred in our church meeting hall late Monday, February 28, resulting in the deaths of five of our members, including three young girls from one of our families,” the church said.

“Our church body is devastated and heartbroken by this senseless tragedy and we ask for continued prayer for the victims, their family and our faith community as we grapple with this unexpected loss and trust the Lord for His strength in our grief,” the church added. “We continue to cooperate with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department in their investigation, are committed to ministering to anyone in need during this difficult time and are doing everything possible to provide comfort to our congregation as we come together as a church family.”

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in a televised interview after the shootings, “It’s just horrific, and unfortunately, it does happen in the county. Domestic violence is all too common. This obviously rising to the level of killing innocent children is obviously beyond anyone’s rational comprehension.”

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