Last Friday, Ocala Florida resident Melanie Reyes pointed a 9 mm handgun at her six-month-old son Jonah and pulled the trigger twice. She then turned the gun toward her own head and shot herself. Jonah was pronounced dead at the scene; Reyes was taken off life support and pronounced dead on Tuesday, January 8. Read about it here (Gainesville Sun, 1/8/13).
It should never have happened. Little Jonah Mendoza should still be alive. He’s not for one simple reason – the domestic violence system, including family courts, fail to protect children from violent, abusive or neglectful mothers.
And that’s just what Melanie Reyes was. In a matter of a couple of weeks before she murdered her son, Reyes had been hauled in by the police for striking her boyfriend, Marcelino Febo, with a baseball bat. In the same time period, she’d hit Jonah’s father, Jordan Reyes, with a wine bottle and been reported to the police in a separate incident involving Mendoza. Text messages to Mendoza suggest she’d been stalking him and others made clear that she intended to kill Jonah and then herself. Febo, Mendoza, her stepfather, Jose Elias, with whom she and Jonah lived, and various friends acknowledge that she had “anger issues.
In addition to the criminal charges against her stemming from the baseball bat assault against Febo, Reyes was also in family court trying to keep Mendoza from having visitation with his son.
What all that means is that the police, prosecutors, criminal courts and one family court had evidence that Melanie Reyes was a batterer of men and a potential danger to her son. But no one did anything. The closest the police came to intervening to prevent tragedy was on the day of Jonah’s murder when, alerted by a friend of Reyes, they appeared at her door only to hear the muffled sounds of gunfire that ended the little boy’s life.
Now, I don’t know if Jordan Mendoza’s attorney had informed the judge of Reyes’ violent tendencies, but when a dad is trying to get custody and the mom has domestic violence charges brought against her, you’d think his attorney would let the judge know. Whatever the case, the judge issued no temporary orders to place Jonah in Jordan’s care. I don’t ask that judge to foresee the future, but had he/she transferred custody, Jonah would still be alive.
What I do know is that Reyes was brought before a criminal court judge and charged due to attacking Febo with the bat. Clearly, that judge did nothing to protect either Febo, Mendoza or most importantly Jordan, from Reyes’ violence. Just as clearly, that judge too is responsible for a child’s death.
Pro-Female Gender Bias Allowed Melanie Reyes to Kill Her SonLet’s be clear. Had Febo or Mendoza whacked Reyes in the head with a bat, or a wine bottle or stalked her or forced the police to come out and investigate a third complaint against him, the criminal court would have done several things. One of those would have been to issue a restraining order against him. That order would have prohibited the man from having any contact with Jordan. In so doing, it would likely have prevented the boy’s death. But none of that happened to Reyes. She was arrested and released with no restrictions on her activities and, most importantly, no restrictions on her access to her child.
Stated another way, the stark gender bias of the domestic violence system did its part to take the life of a little boy. Fathers find themselves tossed out of the lives of their children every day on far less evidence than existed against Melanie Reyes. But her repeated acts of violence, coupled with her threatening text messages, raised nary an eyebrow on anyone’s part – not the police, not the criminal court judge, not the family court judge, not CPS, not custody evaluators, not prosecutors – no one. The same system that shoves fathers aside without probable cause lifted not a finger to protect Jonah Mendoza.
And of course, it’s not like oceans of data don’t force the conclusion that mothers are far more likely to harm children than are fathers. Every year, the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pumps out the data on child abuse and neglect. And every year, mothers lead the class of abusers, far outstripping everyone else. Every year, mothers acting alone commit about 40% of all the abuse and neglect of children nationwide while fathers acting alone commit half that.
But, faced with known facts, police, courts, prosecutors and child protective agencies still marginalize fathers in the lives of children and give mothers a pass. Another child is dead by the hand of his mother. If 2013 is like most years, Jonah Mendoza will be one of about 400 children killed by their mother. His death could have been prevented, but it wasn’t. Anti-male, anti-father bias is the reason.
Speaking of which, one final note: the linked-to article is fairly long by newspaper standards, but, as we’ve come to expect, never uses the words “domestic violence” to describe any of Melanie Reyes’ actions. Almost invariably, in the American press, violence by women against their intimate partners is simply not called what it is, i.e. domestic violence. That refusal by reporters to identify domestic violence by women works hand in glove with the domestic violence industry that has, for some 40 years, denied the overwhelming weight of social science that shows women to perpetrate at least half of the violence within in families and intimate relationships.