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HOLLADAY — Casey Baird said the events surrounding the death of his only daughter, who was stabbed to death this weekend, are bewildering.
He said he had considered the suspect, Victoria Mendoza, his "other daughter." He had been helping Mendoza, 22, purchase a uniform and other gear for her new job as a security guard.
Now, he's attempting to cope with the sudden death of his daughter, Tawnee Maria Baird, allegedly at the hands of her domestic partner.
"She's going to pay for this. It's ruined my life. I don't take death very well," he said Sunday. "To lose my one and only, it's unbelievable. I love you Tawnee. I just can't believe she's gone."
Although he and Tawnee Baird's mother, Dana, had separated when their daughter was a year old, they made it a point to be cordial in her presence, even when it was uncomfortable for both of them. He said he was in constant contact with Tawnee and shared major holidays with her.
"I was there every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I made the best of it," he said. "I lived my life through this little girl."
Details of the crime
According to Ogden police, officers responded to a parking lot in west Ogden about 1 a.m. Saturday where they found Baird, who had been fatally stabbed, and Mendoza. The young women, who lived in Holladay, had been in Ogden visiting friends.
Police said it appears that the women had argued, culminating in Mendoza stabbing Baird. Mendoza apparently drove to the parking lot in west Ogden and telephoned a mutual friend, Aaron Murphy, who called police.
Murphy said he received two phone calls, which he initially believed were a hoax. But something told him call Mendoza back.
"With her voice, I could tell this was a serious thing," he said Sunday.
After a series of hang-ups by Mendoza, Murphy finally extracted enough information to guide police to the parking lot where the young women were parked.
According to Murphy, Mendoza told him: "I'm going to go to jail for along time. I want you tell people not to hate me."
Tawnee Baird was "awesome," he said. She was always smiling and people like to be around her. Mendoza often told friends she wanted to be famous.
"I loved both of the girls equally," he said.
Baird's death is being investigated by Ogden Police Department's Major Crimes Unit and the Weber County Homicide Task Force. Mendoza is being held without bail in the Weber County Jail for investigation of murder.
Casey Baird said "justice will be served" in his daughter's case. He said he has asked defense attorney Greg Skordas, a former prosecutor, to guide him through the process.
"I don't even want the death penalty. I want her to suffer and have a lot of time to think about this," he said.
The relationship between Baird and Mendoza
Baird said his daughter and Mendoza met five years ago in a youth treatment center. His then-teenage daughter had been issued a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia. Given his own experiences with substance abuse, he sought out his daughter's probation officer and requested that she be given random drug tests because Baird had discovered his daughter was still using drugs. The probation officer said he could not order the testing on his own and the issue was referred to the juvenile court.
Tawnee Baird was taken into Division of Child and Family Services custody, Baird said. She was placed in foster care with her aunt and was also admitted into a behavioral health treatment facility, which is where she and Mendoza met.
I don't even want the death penalty. I want her to suffer and have a lot of time to think about this.
–Casey Baird, victim's father
Their relationship appeared to be one of "opposites attract," he said.
Mendoza tended to be "very jealous," while his daughter "joked around and was flirty, not that that's grounds for this heinous crime," he said.
Baird says his daughter seemed happy. She was going to school and working as an accounting assistant.
But while Tawnee Baird had not told her father that her relationship with Mendoza was rocky, about a month ago, he said he noticed that his daughter's front tooth was missing and Mendoza had scratches on her face and an injury to her hand. They told him that they had been attacked at a party in Ogden.
"I feel a lot of guilt I didn't dig into that tooth deal," he said. "I'm hearing little bits and stories from friends of Tawnee that Tawnee was living in fear of Vickie."
While Baird said "there was something about" Mendoza that made him uneasy, he felt it was important to his daughter that he accept their relationship.
When Mendoza's mother became terminally ill, Baird said he supported the girl and was in her mother's home in Ogden with Mendoza when her mother died.
Baird said he hopes that sharing his daughter's story will encourage others who suspect their loved ones are in abusive relationships to "really dig into it."
Contributing: Sandra Yi