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O.C. father gets 25 years to life for drowning son to avoid paying child support

January 15, 2010 | 12:35 pm

A Fullerton man who killed his 4-year-old son to avoid paying child support was sentenced today to 25 years to life in prison, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Gideon Walter Omondi, 38, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation in September after drowning his son Richie in the bathtub of his Fullerton apartment in 2006.

Orange County social workers had received three calls about possible abuse before the child's death, but said they never had enough evidence to act.

Omondi was a Kenyan student studying mechanical engineering at Cal State Fullerton in 2004 when his wife and son came to the U.S. to join him. He reportedly wanted to send them back to Kenya because it was too expensive to support them in Orange County.

Omondi and his wife, Hellen Mwangi, ultimately divorced and the pair shared custody of their child. But Omondi became angry that his wages would be garnished to support Mwangi and his son, according to authorities.

After a family court hearing in January 2006, he tried to kill his son and himself by parking his car and dousing it in gasoline and climbing into the trunk with his son, according to the prosecution. He allegedly intended to set the car on fire, but a California Highway Patrol officer interrupted the plan and Omondi reportedly told the officer he and his son were sleeping in the car.

In September 2006, Omondi picked up his son from daycare and took him to his apartment for the weekend. On Sunday night, he drowned Richie, tucked his body into bed, and drove to the Fullerton police station and confessed. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but jurors found him to be legally sane at the time of the incident.

-- Seema Mehta