A 20-year-old Hilmar woman who was fatally shot last week may have joked about putting the shotgun in her mouth, just moments before the weapon discharged in her face.
That's what a witness told law enforcement, after watching Mirisa Dinwiddie die from a shotgun handled by her boyfriend, Fabio Mendonca, 21, according to a Merced County sheriff's report.
Mendonca's in jail, charged with voluntary manslaughter in Dinwiddie's death.
According to the sheriff's report, at least two witnesses watched the fatal shooting happen. Both witnesses claimed Mendonca and Dinwiddie had been playing with a shotgun moments before she was killed.
When deputies arrived at the scene near Griffith and Schendel avenues in Delhi, they found Dinwiddie lying motionless on a lawn, at the base of steps leading to a residence.
Mendonca and Dinwiddie's mother were standing nearby, crying uncontrollably, according to the report.
Deputies spoke with Mendonca's 11-year-old brother, describing him as "very articulate and concise for his age." The boy said his older brother brought the shotgun to the home of the victim's mother to shoot birds in the barn and squirrels in the orchard.
The boy said Mendonca had unloaded the shotgun, taking out two rounds. Dinwiddie exited the home, and the defendant began "playing around" with the shotgun and his girlfriend.
During this time, Dinwiddie opened her mouth, joking about putting the shotgun inside it, according to the brother's statements.
Mendonca then began moving the gun's barrel in Dinwiddie's face. "(The defendant's brother) said they were playing around doing this when the shotgun discharged," the report said.
Dinwiddie immediately fell to the ground, and family members came out of the home.
The victim's aunt, Terry Wilson, told deputies she was looking out a front window when she saw the shooting happen. Wilson said the defendant had placed the shotgun in Dinwiddie's face before it went off.
Although Wilson said she couldn't tell what the defendant and victim were saying, she said they appeared to be in a playful mood, and there was no indication of an argument or domestic dispute.
Wilson said the shooting was "a stupid thing," and that there was no way Mendonca would have shot Dinwiddie on purpose, according to the report.
When deputies responded to the residence, Mendonca at first claimed he'd dropped the gun, causing it to discharge and kill Dinwiddie. After he was brought to the Sheriff's Department for questioning, however, Mendonca changed his story, saying he and Dinwiddie had been playing around with the gun. He said he pointed it at her as a joke before it went off.
When asked about the eyewitness accounts of the shooting, Mendonca also said he remembered Dinwiddie taking the gun and putting the barrel toward her mouth -- again as a joke.
"He said he pulled the gun away, and even told her not to play around like that," according to the report. "Fabio said he then brought the gun back up towards her face and must have accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting her."
Mendonca pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a gun enhancement Monday.
His attorney, John Garcia, said he hasn't listened to the audio interviews between Mendonca and detectives or reviewed the report with his client. "So I can't verify or contradict anything that's in the report at this time, as it alleges to relate to my client," Garcia said
Although Mendonca faces a maximum of 21 years behind bars, Garcia said his client has no criminal history. "Even if we were to plead exactly as charged, it would be very uncharacteristic of any court to sentence to a maximum, based on all the circumstances," Garcia said.
It remains unknown whether Mendonca, a citizen of Portugal, would be deported if he's convicted.
Mendonca remains at the Merced County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at
(209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.