Investigators have arrested a 30-year-old woman who detectives say killed her three young children.
"This is a big deal for that little town and this is something that people are going to be, I think, discussing and talking about and dealing with for a long time," said Merced County Sheriff's Office Deputy Daryl Allen.
Toys, flowers and candles sit outside of the Le Grand apartment where three young children were killed Wednesday.
Those children were identified as 8-year-old Anna, 5-year-old Matteo, and 3-year-old Alexa Ortiz Lara.
Family members have given us a picture of the three young children killed in Le Grand yesterday.— Jessica Harrington (@JessicaABC30) January 13, 2022
Anna Ortiz Lara, 8
Matteo Ortiz Lara, 5
Alexa Ortiz Lara, 3
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with funeral expenses.https://t.co/ss2PUldF9I pic.twitter.com/xIIfHAYtNK
The Merced County Sheriff's Office says during the investigation, it was determined their mother, 30-year-old Patricia Ortiz, took their lives before attempting to take her own.
"She's been cooperative, she's spoken with the detectives. I don't know what the extent of those conversations is, but she has spoken to them," said Deputy Allen.
The mother was taken to the hospital for her injuries and is expected to be booked into the Merced County Jail for three counts of murder.
The sheriff's office says Patricia Ortiz is married and they believe it was her husband, the children's father, who first discovered the crime scene.
Officials would not disclose the manner in which the children were killed and investigators have not determined a motive.
A long-time family friend says the children were all very loving.
Anna, the oldest, was extremely kind and sang at church.
Alexa, the youngest, was joyful with a beaming smile.
Matteo, the only boy, was protective of his sisters and loved to run around and play.
Eduardo Martinez went to school with Matteo said they were good friends. He said he liked to race on tricycles with Matteo.
Estrella Lupian, Eduardo's mother, said she was familiar with the family and the murders have hit the tight-knit town hard.
"We didn't really talk very much, but we would see each other every day when we would drop off the kids and they would play like my son was saying," said Lupian.
Investigators say the two older children attended school Wednesday.
Le Grand Union Elementary School is just yards away from the apartment complex where the murders happened.
Family members have set up a GoFundMe account to help with funeral expenses for the children, you can access it here.
The children attended Le Grand Elementary. The school released the following statement Thursday:
"The Merced County Sheriff's Office notified Le Grand Elementary School District officials yesterday afternoon that several students were involved in a tragic situation off-campus. Sadly, those students have passed away. Our school community is heartbroken by this tragedy, and we grieve for this enormous loss. The details of the situation are still unfolding, but whatever they are, this event is very traumatic for our children, staff, and families. It is heartbreaking to lose a student under any circumstance. We have grief counselors on campus to support students, staff, and parents as needed. Le Grand is a strong and resilient community, and we will work together to process this tragedy."
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).