Fatal shooting trial expected to start this week in Houston County

bpurser@macon.comNovember 3, 2013 

Jose Garcia

PERRY -- A purple wreath in the lobby of the Houston County Courthouse that was designed to highlight domestic violence came down in October.

Also taken down was a poster that listed ways to determine if a person is a victim of domestic violence and how to get help. The poster had been near a room where potential jurors go when summoned for jury duty.

It was the week before El Salvador native Jose Garcia was initially scheduled to go on trial for the 2010 shooting death of his estranged wife. Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Hall, who is representing Garcia, had filed a motion that the domestic violence awareness wreath and poster come down.

Hall thought the wreath and poster would be prejudicial to her client if seen by prospective jurors. In her motion, she noted the prosecution alleged the shooting was the result of domestic violence.

“The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with impartial jurors. ... Having a wreath or any sign, poster or literature, which expresses an opinion about domestic violence, in this case would be prejudicial against the defendant,” Hall wrote in the motion. She could not be reached for comment.

The trial was continued.

Now, 47-year-old Garcia is again set for trial sometime this week -- dependent on the conclusion of another trial. He is accused of killing Maria Garcia, 38, in her Murray Place home before fleeing and attempting to kill himself.

District Attorney George Hartwig said he expects the trial will take place next week. Erikka Williams, chief assistant district attorney, and Daniel P. Bibler, deputy chief assistant district attorney, are prosecuting the case. Bibler declined comment pending trial.

Garcia has pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Psychiatric evaluations were conducted to determine if Garcia was competent to stand trial. Information regarding those evaluations is sealed in the court record.

The crime

Early Aug. 23, 2010, Garcia allegedly went to the Murray Place home where his estranged wife lived with plans to kill her and then himself in what Warner Robins police described as a planned murder-suicide.

Maria Garcia’s body was discovered in the doorway of her home by neighbors about 7:35 a.m. A handgun believed to have been used to shoot her twice was found inside.

Jose Garcia was discovered unconscious and suffering from two self-inflicted stab wounds in the parking lot of Northlake Apartments where he lived, about four miles away and within minutes of the discovery of Maria Garcia’s body, police said. A large knife police believe Jose Garcia used to stab himself in the chest and leg was found in the parking lot.

Jose Garcia was initially hospitalized and then taken to the Houston County jail. He’s been in jail since Sept. 1, 2010.

In 2010, neighbors DeFrange Leary and Tiffany Ramsey told The Telegraph they saw Garcia drive erratically away from the Murray Place residence shortly before discovering the body. They said he nearly struck a mailbox.

Ramsey described Garcia as being hunched over the wheel of his sport utility vehicle.

Aydee Short, a neighbor who had described herself as a close personal friend of Maria Garcia, said the couple was separated for some time and had four children together.

Both Leary and Ramsey are on the prosecutor’s witness list to testify during the trial. An interpreter is expected to be employed for the trial because Garcia speaks only Spanish, according to court records.

The trial before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden is expected to last about two to three days. Jury selection is expected Monday or Tuesday.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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