Just hours before a Modesto man killed his 8-year-old daughter, a judge approved a restraining order to protect her and her mother from him.
The girl’s mother applied for the restraining order on Monday, it was approved by the judge on Wednesday morning and proof of service was filed with the court at 4:15 p.m. About three hours later, the girl was dead, allegedly shot by her father, Donovan Halstead. .
Two petitions for domestic violence restraining orders filed by the girl’s mother detail years of verbal and physical abuse and foreshadow the horrors to come.
Modesto Police were called to the family home in Village 1 on Havenhurst Court just before 7pm to a report of a suicidal man.
Officers were able to see Halstead, 50, through a window and immediately attempted to contact him, according to a Modesto Police Department news release.
Halstead told officers he would walk out unarmed, but he never did. Instead, officers heard gunshots coming from inside the house. He allegedly shot his daughter and then himself. The girl died at the scene and Halstead was taken to hospital.
Neither the girl’s mother nor anyone else was inside the house with Halstead and the girl at the time of the shooting.
The mother had secured a new home and moved out while Halstead and their daughter were visiting family in Montana for the July 4 holiday.
She filed for divorce in April but did not serve Halstead at the time because she feared for her safety and that of her daughter, according to her domestic violence restraining order application.
The petition stated that Halstead owned two handguns and four rifles.
The mother was unaware that while she was moving, Halstead was watching her on home security cameras. When he learned his wife was moving, Halstead abruptly ended the trip and drove “nonstop” from Montana to California, according to the petition.
During the ride, Halstead repeatedly called and texted her.
“Our daughter was crying hysterically in the vehicle as (Halstead) insulted me, telling me I was ruining her and our daughter’s life,” the mother wrote in the petition. “I would beg (Halstead) to stop as our daughter was in great distress and I was concerned that…(he) was putting our daughter and himself in danger.”
When the mother stopped returning her calls, Halstead, according to the petition, texted her statements, including: “It’s in your hands;” “I hope you will think of it as long as you live;” “your choices have consequences; and “(Our daughter) is coming with me.
The mother attached texts from Halstead to her petition, as well as texts from another concerned family member who encouraged her to call 988, the Suicide and Crisis helpline.
The mother said in the petition that she had not had contact with Halstead or her daughter since July 6, when they were still returning from Montana, and did not know their location. She wrote that she called the police for help, but was told to apply for the domestic violence restraining order.
The mother wrote that Halstead had been verbally abusive throughout their relationship and was regularly the victim of name-calling, degrading statements and threats, according to the petition.
“I believe he will use our daughter to punish me”
She detailed several occasions in which verbal abuse escalated into violence.
In separate incidents in January and March, according to the petition, Halstead prevented his wife from leaving the house during an argument. He tackled her to the ground, pinned her with her knees in his arms, took her keys and her mobile phone and, in one of the incidents, strangled her. Their daughter was present during both incidents, according to the petition.
“I am very concerned for the safety of our daughter,” the mother wrote in the petition. “(Halstead) is extremely angry with me and I believe he will use our daughter to punish me for ending our abusive marriage.”
The mother filed for a legal separation from Halstead in 2016, but the two reconciled three months later.
Prior to this, the mother was granted sole physical and legal custody of their daughter, who was 1 at the time, and a domestic violence restraining order protecting them both.
In this petition, she recounted instances of verbal abuse and physical abuse, including suffocating, pushing and pinning her down.
“(Halstead) told me that he had attempted suicide in the past and I fear he will harm us and himself given his erratic behavior,” the post wrote. mother in the 2016 petition.
During the separation, Halstead oversaw visits with her daughter and went to counseling, according to court documents.
The bee contacted the mother for a comment. A family representative replied that the mother “has no interest in talking about the devastating events that have unfolded”.
Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Bear said the restraining orders against Halstead were part of the detectives’ investigation, but declined to comment further.
She did not say whether Halstead, her daughter or anyone else called the police, nor did she give details of the officers’ interaction with Halstead or the exact timeline of when the shooting happened and when the officers entered the house.
As of Thursday afternoon, Halstead was still in hospital but is not expected to survive.
Modesto Bee writer Ken Carlson contributed to this report.