SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A Sacramento man is behind bars accused of killing his 9-year-old son on Tuesday night.
“Normally a quite neighborhood,” neighbor James Martinez said. “It’s very strange.”
Police say a relative at the family’s home on Atrisco Circle in Natomas called 9-1-1 just before midnight Tuesday, saying the boy had died.
“We got a 9-1-1 call, a hysterical female,” said Sacramento Police Department spokesperson Officer Michelle Gigante.
Police and firefighters arrived at the home and found Matthew Hernandez dead from blunt force trauma to the head. Police were told the boy’s father, 36-year-old Phillip Hernandez, was to blame.
“There is no justification. There is no way to explain something like this,” family member Chris Duran said.
Hernandez was arrested about 15 minutes later walking near Azevedo Drive and W. El Camino Avenue.
According to Gigante, Hernandez was in the backyard of his home when he grabbed a hatchet, broke through a sliding glass door of the home and stood over his son, who was sleeping on a couch. An adult family member heard the crash, came downstairs and tried to stop Hernandez, but was shoved aside. Hernandez then attacked his son.
A second son, 12, was also in the home at the time. He was unharmed and is now in the custody of his family.
“My little brother was friends with the little kids that live there, so it’s kind of sad to actually see my little brother. It was his little friend and now to see that his little friend is not here no more, it’s sad,” said neighbor Aretza Loza.
The hatchet believed to be used in the killing was found at the scene.
“It’s sad to know that, especially, he was 9 years old and his own father killed him,” said Loza.
Police say they don’t know why Hernandez allegedly attacked his son, and it also has family members questioning what may have pushed the father over the edge.
“He had full custody of his children. He was a good father, never spanked his kids, or did anything that way. He was just a total opposite of the situation as the father he was,” said Duran
Court documents reveal the father was in a long custody battle to keep his sons. Their mother won full custody in 2006 after Hernandez landed in jail for beating her.
After his release, Hernandez fought for custody, writing the judge, “It’s been over three years since I last saw them…they are what matter, my view of life and what is important…I love them with all of my heart and I want to give what I didn’t have…a father.”
In 2009, the boys’ mother gave Hernandez custody, saying she wasn’t financially able to support them.
In 2012, she fought to get them back.
“He was going through rough times and so we don’t know what triggered, but obviously something did and it’s a tragedy we all have to deal with,” said Duran.
The children’s mother is out of the state, but is currently on her way home.