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Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Trial of Man Charged With Killing Man Who Was Dismembered
By Terri Vermeulen Keith, City News Service
Published June 24, 2015
Elizabeth Peterson, center, and her two sons: David White, left, and Anthony White, grieve in 2010 for her older son, Herbert Tracy White, whose body parts were found in a backpack.

Elizabeth Peterson, center, and her two sons: David White, left, and Anthony White, grieve in 2010 for her older son, Herbert Tracy White, whose body parts were found in a backpack.

A prosecutor told jurors last week,  the stabbing death of a man who was later dismembered in a downtown Los Angeles hotel room was “overkill,” while a defense attorney acknowledged that her client is “responsible” for the killing but disputed allegations that the victim was tortured and robbed. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury was handed the case after attorneys concluded their closing arguments last Friday in the trial of Edward Garcia Jr., 41, who is charged with the Nov. 28 killing of Herbert “Tracy” White in Room 66 at the Continental.

Garcia’s wife, Melissa Hope Garcia, 30, is awaiting trial separately in connection with the killing. The two could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the murder charge, which includes the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery and murder involving the infliction of torture.

“Clearly Mr. White was killed during the course of their attempt to rob him,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said in his closing argument, while telling jurors that “it’s not just a robbery.”

“Before they killed him, I submit to you, they tortured him,” McKinney said. “Torture doesn’t require that the victim be conscious … It’s whether they intended to inflict pain.”

Murder victim, Herbert Tracy White

Murder victim, Herbert Tracy White

McKinney told jurors that some of the 49-year-old victim’s injuries are “consistent with him being ambushed and incapacitated,” and said that duct tape placed around his wrists showed no signs that White had struggled to free himself.

`We know we’ve got overkill,” McKinney told jurors.

In his opening statement last month, McKinney had told jurors that the two “proceeded to carry out a fantasy they had about cutting up a human being,” and said the victim’s body had “very little to no blood” left in it as a result of what he said a prosecution witness had opined was a “ritualistic killing.” Some of the victim’s remains were later found in a backpack in a corner of the room, while other body parts were found bundled up underneath the blood- stained mattress which had been flipped over and stripped of its sheets, McKinney said in his closing argument. Defense attorney Haydeh Takasugi acknowledged that “Edward Garcia is responsible for the killing of Herbert `Tracy’ White.”

Takasugi — who said earlier that Garcia had expressed “remorse for his actions” — disputed the prosecution’s contention that the crime was premeditated and said the case was “not about dismemberment.”

She argued that there was “no evidence that anything valuable was missing” except for a set of keys to a car belonging to White’s wife that was left outside the hotel, and questioned how others in the hotel wouldn’t have heard if White was being tortured. Takasugi told jurors that White encountered the couple again after giving them money outside a bank in Hollywood and told the couple, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you” and then turned to Melissa Garcia and said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Takasugi said it was “pure speculation” that the couple — who called him early in the morning to pick them up after their belongings got wet in the rain — directed White to the hotel. Garcia’s attorney said a container of sexual lubricant found in the hotel room was the same type found in the victim’s belongings at home, and said her client told police that White had given them two baggies of methamphetamine. In his opening statement, McKinney described White as a former cocaine addict who “hated drugs” and had dedicated his life to helping other addicts.

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