WARNER ROBINS -- A 47-year-old man has pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Jose Garcia, a native of El Salvador, pleaded guilty to one count of murder in Houston County Superior Court, according to the Houston County District Attorneys Office website. The other charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Garcia was scheduled to go to trial Dec. 9 before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden, who handed down the sentence Monday immediately after Garcia entered his plea.
On the morning of Aug. 23, 2010, Garcia went to the Murray Place home of his estranged wife, 38-year-old Maria Garcia, in what Warner Robins police described as a planned murder-suicide. The couple had been separated for about a month.
According to prosecutors, the couple argued in the living room before Jose Garcia pulled a handgun and shot his estranged wife twice, killing her instantly.
Her body was discovered by neighbors in the doorway of her home about 7:35 a.m. The handgun used in the slaying was found inside. Neighbors reported seeing Garcia driving away erratically -- almost striking a mailbox -- shortly before discovering the body.
Garcia fled to Northlake Apartments about four miles away where he had been staying since the separation. He was found unconscious and suffering from two self-inflicted stab wounds in the parking lot.
The large knife he used to stab himself in the chest and leg was found in the parking lot.
Garcia initially was hospitalized and then taken to the Houston County jail. He has been in jail since Sept. 1, 2010.
The couple had four children together.
This is a tragic case that has shattered the lives of four young people, prosecutor Daniel P. Bibler said in a news release. Mr. Garcias actions were purely selfish and destructive, but I am glad he has finally accepted responsibility. This sentence is appropriate and sends a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated.
Carolyn Hall, a public defender who represented Garcia, could not be reached for comment.