Suspected Lakewood Church shooter had criminal history, mental health issues, documents say

NEW YORK — The past of Genesse Ivonne Moreno, the suspected Lakewood Church shooter, includes a turbulent marriage, a contentious divorce, allegations of child and spousal abuse, a checkered criminal record and a well-documented history of mental health issues, according to an ABC News review of documents and records.

Moreno is accused of entering the Houston megachurch with her 7-year-old son before opening fire as hundreds of people were taking their pews before a Sunday afternoon service, according to police.

Moreno, 36, has used "multiple aliases," including "Jeffrey Escalante," Christopher Hassig, heading the investigation for the Houston Police Department, told reporters Monday. Although it appears she has gone by "both male and female names" in the past, investigators' interviews and documents connected to her life so far show Moreno "has been identified this entire time as female," Hassig said.

A turbulent marriage flecked by abuse, mental health issues

Moreno was previously married to a man named Enrique Carranza III. It ended in a contentious divorce and bitter custody battle; their divorce was finalized in 2022.

Carranza, in court papers, described a turbulent relationship and separation from a severely "abusive" relationship on Moreno's part. In an affidavit he filed in 2020 related to divorce and custody proceedings, he described Moreno's mental health issues and violence towards him and their son (in a later filing, Moreno herself pushed back, saying it was her husband who had "physically assaulted" her.)

They first met in 2015 while working at the Spaghetti Warehouse in downtown Houston, according to Carranza's affidavit -- a "family-friendly American-Italian restaurant," according to the restaurant's website.

"As soon as we married, my wife became abusive," Carranza said in his affidavit, adding she was "a diagnosed schizophrenic, so daily it was a new battle or fight in her realm" and that he let her put him "through hell to appease her delusional thought pattern."

Carranza described being physically battered by his wife, whom he referred to as "Jeffrey." He said she would "hit me with keys" and "cans of beans." He said she "ripped a layer of my eye out once" because of impatience with the "interview process" for his job prospect and that she "also stalked me, getting me fired from jobs."

During a three-week Christmastime visit in 2019 with his estranged wife and their son, Carranza said Moreno "called the cops on me twice and both times she had a gun and my son in her hand," according to his affidavit.

"She is a diagnosed schizophrenic and [Child Protective Services] has told her that she cannot have a gun," he said. "I am afraid of her having my address. She has guns and she brags about it while having my son in the car."

"I strongly believe because of my wife's schizophrenia, she does not have the capacity to discern reality from fiction," Carranza's affidavit said, adding "she is irrational and unstable" and "grabs the baby by his arm to pull him where she is to where his shoulder is out of socket."

He described Moreno as willfully negligent towards their son: refusing to take him to the doctor and confining him to "one area." He also said she "abuses her meds" and lets their son "stay up all times of the night."

An affidavit from their child's paternal grandmother, Walli Carranza, submitted during the couple's separation fight echoes concerns over "complaints of child abuse and neglect, as well as reckless endangerment."

In January 2020, Moreno "pulled an unlocked and loaded gun from underneath a seat in the car and pointed it at the head" of Carranza, "only hours after a first unlocked and loaded handgun was found" by their then-3-year-old son "in his own diaper bag," according to the ex-mother-in-law's affidavit.

When Carranza attempted to unlock his son from the car seat and remove him from the situation "as planned" with local authorities, Moreno "drove off" with the back door still "open" and their son not in his car seat, the affidavit said. Moreno "was stopped by Texas State Patrol after eluding them on back roads and then refusing to heed lights and sirens. Thus she had placed Samuel in imminent danger."

The mother-in-law's affidavit also suggests that Moreno should not have been able to own a gun, claiming that under an alias, Moreno had been under involuntary psychiatric commitment at least four times. She also claimed Moreno "filed a fraudulent birth certificate" for the child and "refused" to correct it and told hospital staff that the father [Carranza] was "dead" and, alternatively, that he was "homeless" and unknown.

Her son "has been reticent to file the criminal charges against his wife; now his former wife because, as she is not a US citizen," the mother-in-law's affidavit said, and "as she already has had criminal convictions, she would likely be deported if convicted of the 3rd degree felony that stems from filing a fraudulent birth certificate. He told [Houston Police] detectives this is not what he wants for the woman he loved and married and the mother of his child. He wants her to live, he told police, where she can get quality mental healthcare. He doesn’t hate her; he hates her mental illness and her refusal to treat it."

The mother-in-law's affidavit elaborates on the abuse allegedly inflicted by Moreno on her infant son.

The child "was drug exposed by his mother’s intentional use of illegal substances and legal" and "illegal substances were found in [the son's] blood and urine at birth. His mother refused to allow a toxicology screen on her own blood and urine before birth; further jeopardizing her son." The affidavit goes on to say Moreno kept her son "in diapers," even at four years old, saying "'its too messy to have to toilet train him. This is easier,'" dresses him only "in baby clothes" and "she dresses him in [girls'] clothes." The affidavit also alleges that in December 2019, on a Christmas visit, Carranza caught Moreno putting "what appeared to be adult cold medicine" into their son's feeding tube, saying, "'this is the only way I can get him to sleep.'"

A day after Sunday's shooting at Lakewood Church in Houston, Moreno's former mother-in-law posted a lengthy statement on Facebook asking "that this be a wake-up call."

"[M]y daughter-in-law when she was taking medication for schizophrenia was a very sweet and loving woman," Walli Carranza wrote in the Facebook post on Monday. "But mental illness is real illness and when family members seek emergency protections they're not doing so for their own sake but for the sake of the person who is ill..... And to protect her child and society."

In a Dec. 2021 affidavit filed by Moreno under the name "Jeffrey Moreno-Carranza," she told a different story, alleging that she has "personal knowledge" that her estranged husband was "a convicted sex offender" and had "multiple" DWI charges. She also alleged that during the marriage "he physically assaulted me on numerous occasions that made me fear for my safety and the safety of my son." Carranza was found guilty by a Florida jury of Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Requirements in March 2023, after having been previously convicted of Attempted Sexual Assault on a Child in Colorado, according to the State Attorney for Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit and Texas DPS records.

"I have always been the primary caregiver for my son," Moreno said in her 2021 affidavit, and that her husband "has never cared" for him "by himself and furthermore, he is not capable of caring for a child with special needs."

Suspected shooter's criminal history

Moreno was put under an emergency detention order in 2016 by Houston police officers and is believed to have a "mental health history that is documented, through us and through interviews with family members," Hassig said at Monday's briefing.

Moreno had a string of arrests in Texas over the last two decades.

According to ABC affiliate KTRK-TV, Moreno's criminal history dates back to 2005, with the latest case coming during the summer of 2022.

Among her charges are an August 2009 assault, for which she was sentenced to 180 days in Harris County Jail for kicking a detention officer; a May 2010 charge for forgery, for which she was sentenced to two days in Harris County Jail for trying to use a counterfeit $100 bill; a November 2010 charge for theft, for which she was sentenced to 30 days in Harris County Jail for stealing hats and makeup; a December 2010 charge for evading arrest, for which she was sentenced to 75 days in Harris County Jail; and a June 2022 charge for unlawful carrying of a weapon, which is still an active case.

The hunt for a motive

Authorities are now poring over all possible evidence to understand Moreno's motive and intent -- from raiding a Montgomery County home under her name and a "dark in color sedan" that is registered to her and parked at the home to forensic analyses of her digital devices, and data and images stored on them, according to a police search warrant affidavit.

The warrant includes approval for police to search for any "ammunition, firearms, explosives, materials used to make explosives, cell phones, computers, and any evidence tending to connect Moreno with the commission of the offense of aggravated assault, possession of prohibited weapons, and/or hoax bomb" that might be found.

Authorities are also investigating a YouTube page called "Genesse Moreno Investor," according to a source briefed on the probe. That page portrays Moreno as involved in real estate investments, posting one video with the description, "We Buy Commercial Residential Multifamily Properties."

Police said Monday the investigation is still "very new" and ongoing, and they're urgently pushing to understand why this person chose to open fire at the megachurch Sunday. That process will "take time," officials said.

"We're in the infancy stages of this. I completely understand. We want to know the motive. How she got the weapon. Why she did this. We're not there yet," Doug Williams, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI's Houston field office, said.

But even in these first 24 hours, authorities have already recovered some "anti-Semitic writings" which they believe might have contributed to Moreno's actions, noting the contentious relationship with her ex-husband and his family.

"We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband's family," HPD's Hassig said. "And some of those individuals are of, are Jewish. So we believe that that … might possibly be where all of this stems from."

"There was a sticker on the buttstock of the rifle" that Moreno used at Lakewood, Hassig said. That sticker "simply stated 'Palestine.'"

Moreno's ex-mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, who identifies herself as a rabbi, wrote in a Facebook post on Monday that despite Morreno's apparent antisemitic utterances, "this has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam." Carranza pointed, instead, to Moreno's untreated mental illness and a lack of "strong red flag laws that would have prevented her from having a gun."

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