The little girl's great-grandfather says the problems became clear about a month ago, when 26-year-old Salvador Sanchez-Orozco first tried to take his own life. Prosecutors say he made another suicide attempt on Wednesday, moments after killing his little girl.
Sheriff's deputies were alerted when Sanchez-Orozco called 911 and told them he killed his daughter, and was trying to kill himself.
"I'm dying," he can be heard saying on the call. "I need help."
Deputies entered the apartment and found him with a dog collar around his neck. No marks were visible when the defendant slumped into a courtroom to face pre-mediated murder charges. The judge set bail at $2 million after Sanchez-Orozco entered a not guilty plea. Family members sat tearfully, and in disbelief this could happen.
"I just want everyone to know that nobody expected this," said Bonita Todd, the murdered girl's aunt.
Relatives say Sanchez-Orozco had snapped when his wife, Faye, moved out with their daughter, Daveena, and told him she wanted a divorce.
"We tried to talk to him," said Frank Lima, the victim's great-grandfather. "He said he was maybe going to run to Mexico or something like that with the child, but that's as far as we thought he would ever go."
Investigators say the suspect suffered a mental breakdown last month and tried to hang himself with a dog leash. The suspect's family says it was over the couple's increasing marital problems.
"Salvy loved Faye but he didn't know how to express it," Lima said. "The only way he could express it was to lash out at her."
Things got worse on Tuesday when Sanchez-Orozco visited his wife at her parents' home and saw another man there. Detectives say the suspect returned to the home the next day to get his daughter while his wife was at work. They say he took her back to his apartment and killed her, then tried to hang himself a second time.
"This is an example of domestic violence at its worst," said Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist. "The defendant was angry at his wife because she wanted to separate, so to get at his wife he killed their child."
The little girl's great-grandfather sees it the same way.
"To get back at Faye," Lima said. "It's the only thing I can think of."
The family has set up a fund to help with funeral expenses.