A Bakersfield man who bit out the eye of his 4-year-old son in a vicious attack that drew worldwide attention pleaded guilty to all charges against him Thursday morning, but was then found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Angelo Mendoza Sr., 36, returns to court March 22 to determine which state hospital he will be sent to.
The state Penal Code under which two psychologists were appointed to evaluate Mendoza calls for a trial of whether he was guilty of the charges against him, and also whether he was insane at the time of the crimes. The issue of Mendoza's sanity was submitted to the court based on the psychologists' reports and, based on those reports, Judge MIchael Bush found him not guilty.
Still, Mendoza faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a mental hospital because of the severity of the crimes with which he was charged. Generally speaking, a person must be found to be restored to sanity before being approved for outpatient treatment, prosecutor Melissa Allen said.
And to be released from custody altogether, a person must be deemed no longer insane and also no longer a danger to himself or others, findings that would require numerous hearings and evidence. Richard Terry, Mendoza's attorney, said Mendoza will more than likely live out his days in some sort of mental health facility.
"I think it's the appropriate result, I have no doubt about that," Terry said of Thursday's proceedings.
Not guilty by reason of insanity was the first plea Mendoza entered in the case.
Allen and Terry both said they couldn't go into specifics because of a gag order.
Bakersfield police have reported Mendoza told officers he had stopped taking his prescription medication before the attack on his son. He told police he felt anxious and was seeing things that weren't there.
An hour and a half before the April 28, 2009 attack, Mendoza called police to complain about a disturbance he had with the boy's mother. The mother had left before police arrived, and both Mendoza and the child were unharmed when officers left the residence.
Mendoza bit both of the eyes of Angelo Mendoza Jr., blinding him. He then rolled his wheelchair to the backyard of a vacant home and cut his own legs with an ax and ceramic plate.
Mendoza told police he had been attacked by the Mexican Mafia, but a neighbor saw him injure himself, police reported. He was using a wheelchair because he had been stabbed in the back four years earlier.
The child's right eye eventually recovered while he was in foster care. As of November, he was living with an aunt.
People in many countries offered to help Mendoza Jr. as word of the incident spread. A Christian motorcycle group in Bakersfield raised more than $24,000 by July 2009 for the boy.