Man Who Drowned 4-Year-Old Son Over Child Support Sentenced to 25 Years to Life in Prison

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A 38-year-old Fullerton father who was angry about having to pay child support was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison this morning for murdering his 4-year-old son by drowning him in a bathtub.

Gideon Walter Omondi, who previously tried to burn the boy and himself to death by dousing the car they were in with gasoline (yet still retained visitation rights), had pleaded "not guilty by reason of insanity." But a jury found Omondi legally sane at the time of the murder when handing the judge their guilty verdict last September. The Orange County District Attorney's office statement on the sentencing follows after the jump . . .

January 15, 2010

FATHER SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR MURDERING 4-YEAR-OLD SON BY DROWNING HIM IN BATHTUB AFTER BECOMING ANGRY OVER HAVING TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT

SANTA ANA - An angry father was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison for murdering his 4-year-old son by drowning him in a bathtub after discovering that his wages would be garnished to support his son and ex-wife. Gideon Walter Omondi, 38, Fullerton, was found guilty by a jury on Sept. 8, 2009, of one felony count of first degree murder and one felony count of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation. The defendant, who had pleaded "no guilty" and "not guilty by reason of insanity" was found by the jury to be legally sane at the time of the murder on Sept. 17, 2009.

Omondi moved to the United States in 2002 from Kenya to attend the California State University, Fullerton. In 2004, his wife and young son,
Richie Omondi, also moved to California to join him. The defendant, who was working several jobs while on a student visa, wanted to send his wife and son back to Kenya because it was too expensive to support a family in Orange County. When his wife refused, Omondi filed for divorce. After the divorce, Omondi and his ex-wife were granted joint custody, and the defendant became angry that his wages would be garnished to support his ex-wife and son.

On Jan. 6, 2006, Omondi became angry following a family court hearing. He drove with his son to a desolate stretch of highway near Bakersfield with the intention of murdering Richie and killing himself. Omondi parked the car on the side of the road, doused the trunk of his BMW sedan with gasoline, and closed himself and his son in the trunk with matches in his pocket with the intention of setting the trunk on fire.

A passing California Highway Patrol officer noticed the car and stopped to check on it, believing it had been abandoned. The officer observed shoes outside of the trunk of the car and opened the trunk, finding the defendant and his son inside. Omondi claimed that the pair had been sleeping and the officer allowed the defendant to leave, but documented the contact.

On Sept. 8, 2006, Omondi picked up 4-year-old Richie from day care. The defendant had custody of the child for the weekend. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2006, Omondi filled up his bathtub in his Fullerton apartment and intentionally drowned Richie. He then removed his son's lifeless body and left him on the bed for two hours.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., Omondi drove to the Fullerton Police Department (FPD) and told police that he had murdered his son. The defendant told officers that he felt his son was being used by his ex-wife and the court system to make his life difficult, and that killing Richie was better than being separated from him. Officers from FPD went to Omondi's home and found Richie dead in the bed, under the covers, with his head on the pillow. The pillow was still wet from the victim being placed there after being drowned.

During the sentencing today, Richie's mother,
Hellen Mwangi, gave a tearful victim impact statement, telling the court that her only son had wanted to be a fireman. She explained that Richie had never hurt anyone, and that Omondi was a monster for killing him and taking away Richie's young life by holding him under the water to drown. She said that Omondi cared more about his education than he did about his own son.

Senior Deputy District Attorney
Steve McGreevy of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.

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