Esther Callejas, a 24-year old mother of two from Arizona, fatally shot her two children in the morning of September 27, 2021. Phoenix police Sgt. Ann Justus said in a statement that Callejas shot her children because she wanted them “to go to heaven.”
Speaking with K12 News, a local news outlet in Arizona, one of Calleja’s neighbors said off-record that she may have been going through mental health issues. The police statement did not corroborate the neighbor’s account; however, Sgt. Justus added that Callejas was planning to kill herself, “but she was unable to reload the gun.” Instead, she tried to overdose herself after shooting her children.
The 2-year old girl, Esperanza Isidro, was pronounced dead in the hospital. The 6-year old boy remains in critical condition. The local news outlet, AZ Central, reported that the children ran towards the door when Callejas shot them.
A 2011 study about religious delusions and filicide hypothesizes that “mothers with religious delusions commit acts of filicide due to the dynamic and reciprocal interaction between mental illness, psychological functioning, and the psychological role played by religion.”
A similar case happened in the same month, 35-year old Retta Cruse killed her two daughters; she “overdosed them with a combination of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in early September.”
The children’s father, Emmanuel Isidro, called the police on September 14, reporting his concern over the welfare of his family. Police visited their residence at South 8th Place, near East Broadway Road. Callejas told the police that they were fine. Isidro told police that Callejas was going through depression before the incident.
Callejas was charged with first-degree murder and is currently detained at the Maricopa County Jail. According to court documents, Callejas bought a gun, hid it from her husband, and planned to use it against her children. Margarita De La Cruz, a neighbor who lives in the same block, said Callejas’ children were well-dressed and not mistreated. “She loved her kids, you could tell,” she added.