A Pennsylvania man was sentenced last Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the stabbing death of a man whose body was dismembered in a downtown Los Angeles hotel room in what the prosecution argued was a ritualistic killing. Edward Garcia Jr., 41, was convicted in June of first-degree murder for the Nov. 28, 2010, killing of Herbert Tracy White in room 66 at the Continental hotel. Garcia’s 30-year-old wife, Melissa, is awaiting trial for her alleged role in the killing Jurors in Edward Garcia’s trial also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder involving the infliction of torture and murder during the commission of a robbery.
Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against the Garcias, who have remained jailed without bail since they were arrested about two weeks after the 49-year-old man’s killing. Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told jurors during the trial that the couple were carrying out a “fantasy they had about cutting up a human being.” He 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.
“The blood is everywhere — in the mattress, in the sheets. It’s everywhere but where it’s supposed to be,” McKinney said, telling jurors that the evidence showed that “some weird stuff” was being done.
“Something else is going on here. It’s overkill,” McKinney told jurors.
Defense attorney Haydeh Takasugi acknowledged that Garcia was responsible for the killing, but disputed that the killing was premeditated.
“They have not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.
Takasugi urged jurors to acquit Garcia of first-degree murder and to reject the special circumstance allegations, saying that there was no evidence that Garcia or his wife stole valuables from the victim and that the majority of the injuries were inflicted either at or near the time of White’s death or after he had already been killed. The two initially met White when he gave them money outside a bank in Hollywood, then called him early that morning to pick them up after their belongings got wet in the rain, the defense attorney told jurors. The victim’s mother, Elizabeth Peterson, said after the verdict that she felt as if she “finally got some form of justice for my son’s murder.”
Peterson said her son was 6 feet 5 inches tall — the tallest of her three sons — and was a “very strong man.”
“It always amazed me that somebody could overtake my son and brutalize him the way he was brutalized,” said the victim’s mother, who noted that she was “hurt deeply” by what she called her son’s character being “maligned” during the trial by the defense’s contention that White brought methamphetamine to the hotel room.
“He was not interested in drug deals and drug sales and so forth,” she said of her son, who was described by the prosecutor as a former cocaine addict who “hated drugs” and had dedicated his life to helping other addicts.