Ernesto Rios ran out of the shower when he heard the screams.
His son, Jason Rios, then 24, was wielding a tire iron above his 7-year-old granddaughter, La'nyla Heater. He had already hit her in the face and was preparing to strike again in February, a sheriff's report says.
Ernesto Rios rushed to intervene before Jason could land another blow to La'nyla. He wrestled his son — whom Ernesto said looked dazed, as if he were asleep — out of their New Port Richey house. In another bedroom, La'nyla's sister, Jenica Randazzo, 9, lay dying, a victim of Jason's attack. Jason — who had three times been taken into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which allows police to commit to a psychiatric facility those they believe are a danger to themselves or others — also killed his double-amputee mother, Angela Rios, 55.
The girls were Jason's nieces and the daughters of his sister, Jessica Rios, who also had two sons. Ernesto and Angela were in the process of adopting all four children.
But hampered by federal health regulations, the state's Department of Children and Families couldn't ask about the mental health of anyone besides the adoptive parents. That meant even though Jason lived in the home, his medical history was shielded from state adoption officials.
Neither Jason nor his family appreciated the depths of his illness. He didn't seek followup care after being released each time, and his parents never reported his behavior to DCF.
Ultimately, Jason was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and a count of attempted murder. He awaits trial.
Josh Solomon, Times staff