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Deputies: Rios beat mother, niece to death with tire iron

Jason Rios, 24, is charged with murder in the deaths of his niece Jenica, 9, and his mother.
Published Feb. 18, 2015

NEW PORT RICHEY — Authorities identified the murder weapon they say Jason Rios used to beat his mother and two young nieces two weeks ago as a four-way tire iron.

After the attack was halted, arrest records released Tuesday evening indicate, Rios told his father that he had messed up.

Rios, 24, is facing murder charges in the deaths of his mother, Angela Rios, and 9-year-old niece, Jenica Randazzo, stemming from the Feb. 5 attack. The second niece survived her injuries. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco has described Rios as a paranoid schizophrenic who was possibly using drugs.

The report released Tuesday, along with a recording from a 911 call reporting the incident, indicate Rios took the tire iron from his parents' bedroom in the New Port Richey home he shared with them and four nieces and nephews.

Angela Rios was a double leg amputee who got around in a wheelchair.

On the morning of the attacks, according to the report, her husband, Ernesto Rios, got out of bed just before 8 a.m. to wake his four grandchildren for school. Ernesto told sheriff's deputies he found Jason Rios pacing in the hallway. He said he got in the shower and minutes later heard screams from his 7-year-old granddaughter's bedroom.

When he walked in the room, Ernesto told deputies, he found his son standing over the girl's bed, hands raised, ready to strike her again with the metal bar. The girl, La'Nyla Heater, had injuries on her face.

Ernesto struggled with his son, the report says, finally forcing him out the door. He told Rios to go to a nearby home, where a family member lived. On his way, Rios dropped the tire iron in the family's yard.

Sometime before Ernesto stopped Rios, his 13-year-old grandson tracked screams and a "whacking" sound to his grandparents' bedroom, where he found his grandmother's face bloodied and beaten. His uncle stood nearby holding the tire iron, the boy told deputies. The boy ran to the home of a neighbor, who called 911.

After an hourslong standoff, deputies arrested Jason Rios, who was hospitalized with self-inflicted injuries. He faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

Jenica was hospitalized and died the next morning. Her grandmother was pronounced dead at the scene.

The boy who found his grandmother, Dominic Putnam, has since been placed in a foster home from which authorities have said he has twice run away.

All four children have spent much of their lives shuttling between the home of their maternal grandparents and foster care after their mother, Jessica Rios, lost custody of them.

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kemettler.

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