Manuel Velazquez was inside his North Hollywood apartment early Friday afternoon when he heard screaming. Velazquez, 64, walked outside and saw his next-door neighbor holding her 13-month-old daughter.
Velazquez said the woman told him her boyfriend had gone "crazy" and stabbed the child. Velazquez then noticed a fire coming from the apartment.
Los Angeles Police Capt. Stephen Carmona said Saturday that the man, Noe Torres, 28, stabbed his daughter about 11 a.m. in front of family, then set a small fire inside the apartment. Torres, who had been burned, then jumped out a back window. When police arrived, a kitchen knife was still in his body.
Torres, who also had a knife in his waistband, refused to comply with officer's commands, Carmona said. After using a Taser and bean bag rounds, police were able to subdue Torres, Carmona said. Torres was arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held on $1 million bail, according to online records.
The girl, identified as Rosario Bautista, was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Family members told police that Torres may have been under the influence of methamphetamine, Carmona said, adding that Torres underwent surgery for his stab wounds.
The killing stunned residents of the apartment complex. Neighbors walked around the courtyard Saturday morning and talked in hushed tones as a family set up chairs and tables for another girl's birthday party.
The smell of ash hung in the air, and behind the complex was a pile of scorched belongings, among them a pink bike and a pink chiffon dress. In the courtyard near a statue of the Virgin Mary, a black-and-white photo had been added of a smiling Rosario in a white dress.
Geraldine Calvillo, 28, said she had just seen the child playing in the courtyard Thursday night. Calvillo said the killing is upsetting. Her daughter, whom the birthday party was being held for, is the same age as Rosario.
"It's hard," she said.
Alyson Aspe, Velazquez's granddaughter, who also lives next door to the family, said she was at school Thursday when her grandfather called her with the news. Velazquez, along with the child's cousin, rushed back to the apartment, but couldn't get past the police tape.
"I was shocked," she said. "I just carried the baby the day before."
Aspe said that the family was generally quiet, but the mother and father "would fight a lot." Rosario, she said, was a shy, serious baby who warmed up only to people she knew well. Aspe, who has lived at the complex for about six years, said that the area is normally safe. She said sometimes, gang members hang out in the alley, but nothing like this has happened.
Carmona said the case is tragic.
"It affects officers, it affects everybody," he said.
Calvillo said that when she last saw the child, the girl had fallen off her bike and had started to cry. Her father was nearby, comforting her. He told her everything would be OK.
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