Garcia murder trial underway
Opening statements were given Monday morning in the Anthony Garcia murder trial.
Brenda Beadle from the Douglas County Attorney's office began, saying revenge motivated Garcia to kill Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in 2008 and Roger and Mary Brumback in 2013 because his life was spiraling downward and he blamed Creighton University Medical Center. She said he googled the Shakespeare line, "If you harm me, shall I not revenge?”
Dr. Garcia got residency at CUMC's Pathology Department in 2000, but was fired less than a year later because of what Beadle said was “arrogance, disrespect, incompetence.” He was written up on occasion and later recommended for probation, then termination. Dr. William Hunter, Thomas' father, and Dr. Roger Brumback signed that letter of termination.
Beadle said Garcia threatened to sue and appealed his termination. He was admitted to the residency program at LSU which lasted only about six months. He lied to get in and was terminated on February 28, 2008. Within two weeks, 11-year-old Thomas and Sherman, the Hunter's housekeeper, were killed.
Beadle said he drove to the Hunter's Dundee home and parked about a block away, using a butcher knife from the kitchen to stab Thomas and Sherman in the neck.
Neighbors, who thought he might have been a door-to-door salesman, were able to give good descriptions. Garcia's car had an out-of-state rear license plate and no front plate.
Beadle said after Garcia bought a home in Indiana and applied for a medical license, he returned to the metro in May 2013 and went to the home of another Creighton doctor, Chhandra Bewtra, but an alarm went off. Dr. Bewtra wasn't home. From there, Beadle said he went to the Brumback residence.
Garcia lawyer Bob Motta Sr. said in his opening statement that Garcia is innocent, the list of evidence is circumstantial and the jury won't find one witness who identified Garcia being at the Hunter house. “Things are not always what they seem," said Motta.
Motta said this case is really about five murders not four, citing the November 2007 murder of Joy Blanchard and witnesses will provide a connection between Blanchard and Sherman. Motta said Sherman was the target of the Dundee killings, not Thomas Hunter.
Motta said there were similarities in the murders of Blanchard and the Hunter/Sherman killings and the Douglas County Attorney’s Office rushed to judgment in this case.
Motta said Beadle mentioned a piece from a gun found at the Brumback home had broken off and was connected to a gun Garcia had, but Motta said no fingerprints were found. He said no one heard screams or gunshots the day of the Brumback murders.
Motta also said CUMC residency for pathology had at least four or five other doctors who were terminated at or about the same time as Garcia. “You control the facts,” Motta told the jury, adding what they decide “will stay with you for the rest of your lives."
Dr. William Hunter took the stand shortly before recess was called for lunch. He talked about his son and housekeeper, their typical school and work schedules and that his wife was in Hawaii at the time of the murders for a medical conference.
He noticed Sherman’s car was still in the driveway when he returned home that day. Normally the front door would be locked or bolted. It was closed but not latched. He saw his son’s Xbox was turned on. He said Thomas normally turned it off when he was finished playing it. When he walked into the house he first saw Sherman lying in the back hallway with blood everywhere. He found Thomas and touched his right hand to see if he had a pulse. He saw a large amount of blood “absorbed into the rug.”
At first he didn’t know what to do. In a state of panic he said, “Who do I call? What do I say?” He called 911 and the operator calmed him down. “It didn’t seem real. I was also looking at it from a clinical standpoint.” Eventually, he contacted everyone in the family.
A crime scene photo of Sherman’s body was shown, then a photo of Thomas’ body. Garcia spent most of the time reading from a legal pad and looking down during the testimony.
Cross examination began Monday afternoon with Dr. Hunter on the stand. He was followed by a firefighter and police officer who responded to the scene. Omaha Police Officer Derek Mois testified he walked through the Hunter’s house. Officer Mois took jurors through a series of photographs showing Shirlee Sherman as she appeared when he arrived at scene. Mois also said Shirlee’s purse was on the kitchen table and was not taken from crime scene.
A former neighborhood resident then took the stand. Paul Medin said he saw a stranger who he thought was a salesman because he had a bag over his shoulder that looked like a computer bag.
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