PLANO, Texas — Melinda Muniz murdered her fiance’s child and staged the crime scene, in an attempt, to make it appear that someone else attacked the defenseless child.
Muniz had ties to Las Vegas and attended both Coronado High School and Sierra Vista High School. It is not known when she relocated to Texas.
What is known is that she was living with Mitchum Ford, a divorced father, who had custody of his daughter, Gracie.
Gracie Ford was a beautiful and happy little girl. At the time of death she was just six weeks away from celebrating her third birthday.
Her parents, Emily Ward and Mitch Ford, were divorced and embroiled in a not-so-nice custody battle so, for the time being, Gracie Ford was living with her father.
After Ford became romantically involved with Muniz, she soon moved in with him and Gracie.
Their relationship appeared to have a lot of ups and downs. Ford had accused her of cheating after finding a video of her dancing topless that he believed she had sent to another man.
In addition to the problems the couple had with each other, there was concern for Gracie Ford. CPS was contacted three times in 2013 due to concerns about the child’s well-being. CPS employees that investigated the complaints reportedly did not find any conditions that warranted intervention.
Only two days before Gracie was savaged attacked by her caregiver, her maternal grandfather had delivered a hand-written letter to CPS expressing his concerns about previous injuries Gracie had sustained.
On the morning of Jan. 9, the couple again argued and were supposedly in the process of breaking up. Even though the couple was facing an impending breakup, Ford continued to leave Muniz alone with his daughter and allowed her to serve as Gracie’s caregiver while he was at work.
In the early afternoon of Jan. 9, Muniz arrived home and called Mitch Ford, to let him know they had arrived home.
During that phone call, according to Ford, Muniz started to scream for help. He also heard his daughter screaming in the background and the phone line went dead.
Ford contacted 911 and immediately left his office to return home. Both Ford and police arrived at the home at approximately the same time.
According to the Melinda Muniz arrest warrant filed, they entered the apartment and found Muniz lying face down with her pants and underwear pulled down to her ankles and her mouth duct taped.
After she was helped to her feet, she remained with her pants and underwear pulled down around her ankles until one of the officers told her she could pull them up.
Gracie Ford was found face down in her bedroom in a similar position. She had duct tape on her mouth, and was not breathing. CPR was administered and she was revived and transported to the hospital. Her brain was swollen and the little girl suffered a number of strokes and was on life support. Three days later, on Jan. 12., Gracie succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead.
Her cause of death was later determined to be due to suffocation.
There was absolutely no evidence of a sexual assault on Gracie or Melinda Muniz.
Police that responded to the 911 call were immediately suspicious of Muniz.
Her statements were inconsistent. She had appeared to faint, for example, although an officer noticed her eyes were “fluttering”. She lied to investigators and omitted information numerous times. She even later visited an emergency room claiming she had amnesia.
Some have compared her demeanor, as well as her physical appearance, to two other notorious female murders, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias.
An intensive investigation was initiated.
Shockingly officials found surveillance footage that showed that Muniz had taken Gracie to a Dollar Tree store to buy some of the items that she would later use to kill the child with.
Experts contend that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, however, just three days after his daughter died, Ford, against the advice of authorities, met with Muniz, under the pretense of finding out information about the case.
At the time of their meeting, Muniz was still pretending that she had amnesia and he told investigators that she did not even recognize him.
Still, Ford spent five hours with her. They had drinks at a local bar, consumed a bottle of wine purchased at Kroger’s and had sex in his car.
He has also visited her in jail.
At this point, he not been been named a suspect or charged in connection with his daughter’s death.
Muniz was arrested on Jan, 28.
She allegedly admitted to placing duct tape on Gracie’s mouth and removing her bottoms and has been charged with capital murder.
Emily Ward is devastated at the loss of her daughter and is committed to not only remembering her daughter, but, also to helping others. A Prayers for Gracie Facebook page was created initially to pray for Gracie when she was on life support.
Since her death, the page has evolved into a memorial for Gracie. Ward has become involved in other causes to help bring awareness to child abuse and to problems within CPS.