When deputies arrived, a mother was lying on a bathroom floor, her decapitated head by her side. Her teen-age son was nearby, naked, covered in blood and reading a Bible. Investigators on Monday were trying to piece together what allegedly led David Lange to hack off his mother's head with a meat cutter's knife.
"This is really weird because there's no history (of violence) on this guy at all," said Assistant Merced County Sheriff Henry Strength. "We have no idea why this thing happened."
Lange, an 18-year-old house painter, was being held without bail on suspicion of murdering his 50-year-old mother, Aurelia.
An autopsy was conducted Monday. With Lange being uncooperative, family members had been interviewed but could not shed much light on what might have prompted the slaying Friday afternoon.
"A family member's never going to say, 'I always knew he was going to kill,"' said Sgt. Rick Marshall, who is heading the investigation.
Investigators discovered the grisly scene after one of Aurelia Lange's daughters called 911 from a nearby town and asked deputies to check on the family house on Paradise Avenue.
According to Marshall, the daughter said her mother had called to say she had fallen down stairs in the two-story home. Strength said the daughter reported that the mother said her "son was getting out of hand and that she was having arguments with him."
A crew from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection arrived first and called deputies to say a naked man threatened them at the house, Marshall said.
When officers arrived, they peered through a sliding glass door and saw the naked man laying on the floor about 10 feet from his mother's body. They hollered at him to come out of the house and he eventually got up from the floor, walked out and surrendered. Officers cuffed his hands and wrapped a blanket around him.
They recovered a knife near the victim that came from a kitchen butcher block.
After refusing treatment for a deep cut on a finger, Lange was placed in restraints and taken to the hospital, where he was treated and blood was drawn for drug tests.
It could be weeks before test results are complete and Strength would not comment on the possibility that Lange was under the influence of narcotics.
Merced County investigators incorrectly jumped to the conclusion that drugs drove a stranger last month to break into a Merced farmhouse and fatally stab two kids with a pitchfork, before authorities shot and killed the intruder.
"I would have given up a year's salary to tell you (the pitchfork killer) was on drugs," Strength said. "I don't even want to speculate on this guy."
At the time of the killing, Lange's father was in Texas at his father's funeral.
He returned home after his daughter phoned to tell him his wife had been killed and their son was the suspect, Strength said. The father visited his son in jail Sunday.
Lange had been on probation in the past, but investigators were unaware of the details and probation officials said his file was sealed. Given his age, it is likely his record dates to when he was a juvenile.
Arraignment was scheduled Wednesday afternoon in Merced Superior Court.