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In 2016, a father named Gerardo Mendoza Ordaz took his four-year-old daughter to St. John’s Catholic Church in Healdsburg, California… and drowned her in a baptismal pool.

It was a horrific crime and Ordaz rationalized his behavior by telling investigators he had been on a meth binge, hadn’t slept in days, and felt like he was obligated to perform an exorcism on his child.

There’s no way to undo what happened to the daughter, but at least there’s finally some justice. Last week, a judge sentenced Ordaz to 11 years in jail after only a brief deliberation. He faced up to 25 years behind bars if convicted by a jury — which could have been difficult given his mental health — so both sides agreed to a plea deal that involved a shorter possible sentence.

The 11-year sentence was predetermined, part of a negotiated plea to manslaughter that Ordaz agreed to as he was facing trial on murder charges, which could have put him in prison for 25 years to life.

The plea deal avoided what likely would have been an extremely emotional public trial for him and his family, reliving the night he killed his daughter in a fog of drug-fueled delusions.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Robert LaForge told Ordaz, 47, that several statements he made to probation officers before Wednesday’s hearing were objectionable.

“Certainly, I’m going to give you the maximum allowed by law based on what I read,” LaForge said. “There were a couple things that were concerning. Your statement was concerning, minimizing. I want you to know that.”

Ordaz said he had been searching for a priest to perform the exorcism that day in 2016 but, unable to find one, he did the deed himself. Reports also said he was naked in the parking lot of a police station when he went looking for help after killing his daughter.

It seems clear that being under the influence of a toxic drug was more of a factor here than following a toxic theology. While some anti-theists may point to this as evidence of the problem with religion, it seems unlikely that this tragedy would have happened without the influence of drugs. Whatever the case, it’s a tragedy all around. What matters now is whether Ordaz will be able to get the mental help he needs while locked up. He will eventually leave prison; whether he’ll be safe to be around at that point is still an open question.

(Screenshot via KTVU)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.