WARNER ROBINS — Neighbors who found the body of a woman in the doorway of her Warner Robins home Monday morning said they saw the estranged husband drive erratically away shortly before the grisly discovery.
Maria Garcia, 38, was found dead in the front doorway at 102 Murray Place about 7:35 a.m., said Tabitha Pugh, public information officer for Warner Robins police.
DeFrange Leary, who lives next door and was one of the neighbors who found the body, said she was lying in blood, having been shot in the neck. He said a bullet casing was nearby and a handgun was on the floor inside.
The victim’s estranged husband, 44-year-old Jose Garcia, who had been stabbed twice, was found about 7:40 a.m. in the parking lot at Northlake Apartments at 310 Northlake Drive where he lived, Pugh said.
He was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center of Central Georgia where he was in critical condition Monday after undergoing surgery, Pugh said.
Tiffany Ramsey, the other neighbor who found the body, said she saw Jose Garcia hunched over the steering wheel of his sport utility vehicle earlier Monday morning and that he nearly hit a mailbox as he was driving away.
Police believe the two incidents are related and are treating the discovery of the body as a homicide, with foul play suspected, Pugh said.
“We’re not elaborating right now,” Pugh said. “We’re still investigating and interviewing people.”
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, Pugh said.
The couple was married but had been separated for several months, Pugh said. The couple’s children were not at home when the death occurred, Pugh said.
A birthday party for the youngest child was held at Maria Garcia’s home Saturday, neighbors said.
Neighbors Rosa Mooeno and Dario Hernandez said Maria Garcia had come to their home several days earlier asking for help.
“Many days ago, she said the man (Jose Garcia) said, ‘One day, I kill you,’’’ Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who speaks some English, interpreted for Mooeno. Hernandez said he did not hear Maria Garcia say those words but she had confided that to Mooeno, who shared it with him.
Maria Garcia sometimes kept one of Mooeno’s children while she was at work, and Mooeno and Hernandez were caring for her pet dog Monday until a relative could come for it.
Leary said he was returning home Monday morning after dropping his wife off at work when he first saw Maria Garcia lying in the doorway. He said he figured she was watching her children at the nearby bus stop. Leary said he saw Jose Garcia drive away about the same time, nearly striking a mailbox.
Ramsey said she was returning from the school bus stop where she’d taken her son when she saw the body in the doorway. She said she called to Maria Garcia but received no answer. She also had earlier seen Jose Garcia drive erratically away and had noticed that the door was open and that something was blocking it.
Ramsey went and got Leary and the two went over to investigate together. Ramsey called 911, with the 911 operator asking them to do CPR. But Leary said it was too late and that Maria Garcia was obviously dead.
Neighbors said Jose Garcia would often park across the street from Maria Garcia’s home and would visit with their children outside.
Aydee Short, who described herself as a close personal friend of Maria Garcia, said the couple, who had been separated for some time, had four children who range in age from 13 to 18. The children are staying with relatives and friends, Short said.
Maria Garcia was a very sweet person, a hard worker and a very caring mother, Short said.
“Her world was her kids,” Short said.
Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact Warner Robins police detectives at (478) 929-6911, or to submit information through the agency’s website at wrpolice.org.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.