Phillip Raymond Hernandez
Sacramento police believe a 9-year-old boy was bludgeoned to death at this home on Atrisco Circle in the Natomas area of Sacramento, Feb. 26, 2013.
Sacramento police investigate death of 9-year-old Natomas boy on Atrisco Circle.
NATOMAS, Calif. - Sacramento police detectives are investigating the grisly death of a 9-year-old boy in his south Natomas home Tuesday night.
The Sacramento Police Department received two emergency calls from a residence on the 2200 block of Atrisco Circle at 11:52 p.m.
According to police reports, officers arrived at the scene and found the lifeless boy inside the home, suffering from blunt force trauma to his head.
Officers established a large perimeter around the residence while speaking with relatives at the scene. Within 15 minutes, the victim's father, 36-year-old Phillip Hernandez, was located walking in a nearby neighborhood and arrested.
Sacramento police Officer Michele Gigante said the ensuing investigation revealed Hernandez had gone into the backyard of his home, grabbed a hatchet, broken through the sliding glass door and found his son asleep on the couch. An adult relative heard the glass break and went into the living room to find Hernandez standing over the boy with a hatchet in hand. The relative attempted to stop Hernandez, but was pushed aside and witnessed the brutal attack on 9-year-old Matthew Hernandez.
Officers found the hatchet at the scene.
According to Gigante, Hernandez also had a 12-year-old son at the residence, but that child was uninjured.
The victim's mother was out of state and arrived back in Sacramento Wednesday.
Police are still working to determine a motive for the attack, said Gigante. Child Protective Services was also involved in the investigation.
Hernandez had convictions for corporal injury, domestic abuse and felony attempted kidnapping and served prison time.
Wife Jessica Hernandez filed for divorce from Hernandez in 2004 and Yolo County issued a 3-year restraining order against the suspect to protect Jessica Hernandez in 2005.
Court documents also show the boys have been living with their father since 2009 after their mother willingly gave up custody. But other documents show Jessica Sanchez wrote in 2008 "He (Phillip) is a dangerous man and I am terrified to leave my sons in his care."
Later, in 2009, Phillip Hernandez accused his ex-wife of being "unstable in all areas of her life . . . And due to the fact she is a stripper, she has been known to leave the boys days sometimes weeks at a time."
Last fall, Jessica Hernandez tried to get her sons back. She asked the court to allow the boys to live with her in Las Vegas. The documents read, "there is nothing personal towards their father. I am now in much better position both financially and quality of life in general and am certain I could provide for them better for the time being."
The judge denied her request and gave Phillip Hernandez primary custody in November. The judge was expected to review the custody order again in July.
A relative said the two boys in the home were also in the custody of the great-grandmother.
Family members gathered at the home on Atrisco Circle Wednesday afternoon to help make repairs to the damage in the back of the home where the sliding glass door was broken.
Phillip Hernandez's stepfather, Richard Luna spoke to News 10 about his grandson, Matthew.
"He was just the fun-loving kid. When he would come home from school over at Grandpa's house, at my house, he would climb the tree, and I would tell him, Matthew get down from that tree. You're gonna hurt yourself. You're gonna fall and break your leg, but every day after school, he would pull that bench over to the tree or the garbage can up to the tree and climb that tree every day," Luna said.
Asked about his stepson, Luna said he never saw Phillip Hernandez even spank his children or do anything that could have foreshadowed an attack.
"We all go through situations in our life where we struggle in one area or another, and Phillip was just going on some hard times at this moment, and I don't know what triggered it or what caused it, but obviously something happened, and he wasn't able to control."
The Natomas Unified School District issued the following statement Tuesday:
We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of one of our students (in 4th grade). Our hearts go out to the family and friends. Additional counselors, psychologists, District Office leaders and Police chaplains are available to help staff, parents, and students process the loss of this student. Additionally, the school is calling the parents/guardians of each of the student's classmates to make sure parents are aware and have access to support services.