Emily Lane, Times-Picayne, October 17, 2017
People who lived near the Bywater home Mark Hambrick shared with his wife and toddler said there was no indication anything was wrong with their neighbor before police on Tuesday (Oct. 17) said he admitted to stabbing and suffocating his 18-month-old daughter to death.
“They’re sweet people,” said a man who lived across the street from Hambrick’s salmon-colored duplex. Appearing dazed, he said he had been neighbors with the family for years.
Hambrick called 911 about 7:05 a.m. and told the dispatcher he had killed his daughter, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said. Speaking from the scene at North Rampart and Louisa streets, Harrison said officers responded to the call and found Hambrick, 45, sitting outside on his front porch and the toddler inside with stab wounds.
Soon after, an employee with the Orleans Parish Coroner’s office would leave the Hambricks’ home with a small body bag.
Harrison said Hambrick told police over the phone, “that God made him do it.” He gave police a statement outlining what happened and how he “committed this heinous, gruesome act to his own child,” Harrison said.
“He told us that he had stabbed the child and to put the child out of their misery, he suffocated the child until the child expired,” Harrison said.
Neither NOPD nor the Orleans Parish Coroner’s office have identified the 18-month-old girl by name. Neighbors said the toddler, who one woman recalled as a “sweet” little girl, had learned to walk and had started talking, though it was mostly babble.
Coroner’s office spokesman Jason Melancon said the case, including the child’s cause of death, is still under investigation. Harrison said Hambrick told police he stabbed and strangled his daughter sometime in the night, hours before he called 911. When police arrived, the chief said, the girl was unresponsive and could not be revived.
A knife police said Hambrick told them was used in the stabbing was recovered from the scene, Harrision said.
Hambrick does not appear to have a recent criminal record in Orleans Parish. He works as an internal audit analyst at the Sewerage and Water Board, the agency confirmed. The chief said Hambrick’s wife, who is the girl’s mother, was not home at the time of the stabbing but had been notified of what happened.
“Our prayers are with this mother and the rest of this family,” said Harrison, adding the mother lost both her baby and her husband. Police booked Hambrick Tuesday on one count of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.
Neighbors said Hambrick’s wife, Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, was working in Baton Rouge Tuesday morning.
Gerhart-Hambrick is on the staff of Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Broome’s office confirmed. The mayor said in a statement on Tuesday that she was with Gerhart-Hambrick “as she works through this unimaginable situation.”
“This is a horrible tragedy. No parent should ever have to lose a child, especially in such a violent way. We are here for Monika and her family for whatever they need,” the Baton Rouge mayor’s statement said.
But based on his behavior, Harrison said, investigators “reasonably suspect there is either mental illness or drug abuse or a combination of both.” The chief added while investigators have their suspicions, based on the man’s actions, the determination whether Hambrick suffered from any mental illnesses would be a diagnosis made by a doctor.
Hambrick’s job application for the Sewerage & Water Board job, obtained from the New Orleans Civil Service Commission, states he has a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Jackson State University, in Jackson, Miss.; earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; and earned his high school degree from a catholic school in Madison, Miss., a suburb of Jackson.