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Father Of Murdered Toddler Blames Himself

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) - A Plano father is struggling with both grief and guilt after his former fiancé was charged with murder in his young daughter's death. Grace Ford, 2, was found unconscious in her father's apartment earlier this month. An autopsy found that the toddler was suffocated. Melinda Muniz, 25,  is now jailed, charged with capital murder.

"I left Grace at home with someone who was capable of this," said Mitch Ford, "it's insane."

According to the arrest warrant issued in the case, Muniz staged a home invasion robbery just hours after Ford told her he was ending the relationship. The couple argued on the morning of January 9 after Ford found an explicit video on her cell phone that he said Muniz sent to another man. But, Ford insists that he would have never left Grace with Muniz if he felt that she was in danger.

"I had full custody. She'd watched Grace every day for the last year. I thought everything was okay," says Ford. "She didn't even seem upset when I broke up with her."

According to court documents, Muniz did not return Ford's text messages that day. But, phoned him early afternoon and then began to scream and yell during that conversation as though she was being attacked. Ford immediately called police and raced home -- meeting Plano police officers at his apartment. But, detectives later said that the details of the home invasion and alleged sexual assault didn't add up.

The arrest warrant outlines key details of the investigation -- including surveillance video from a nearby dollar store showing Muniz purchasing "silver duct tape, nylon cable ties, kitchen shears, and cotton swabs." That same videotape also showed Muniz pushing Grace sitting in the shopping cart throughout the store as Muniz selected the items she purchased. All items that police say were later used in the little girl's murder.

"I failed. I failed as a father," says Ford, who told CBS 11 that he blames himself for bringing Muniz into his and Grace's lives. "I don't give a sh** in the end if it was a staged thing to get back with her or if it was her choking Grace out. It's the same to me. You put duct tape over my daughter's mouth. You're a piece of sh** just like you shot her in the face."

Plano police have said that Muniz is cooperating with detectives, but didn't elaborate. According to the arrest warrant, at one point Muniz told Ford that she had amnesia and couldn't recall events that had occurred in the past year and a half. She is being held in the Collin County jail on a one million dollar bond.

"She needs to get the death penalty," says Ford, who now calls his former fiancé 'evil.' He then reconsidered, saying, "no, she needs to get life in prison without parole and die when she's 90 years old thinking every day about what she did."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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