Anthony Garcia's attorneys want him evaluated for mental illness before death-penalty hearing
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
March 13, 2017
With Anthony Garcia’s attorneys calling his communications “gobbledygook,” a judge wants to question Garcia to determine his mental fitness to face a death penalty hearing in the slayings of four Omahans.
Defense attorney Jeremy Jorgenson said in court Tuesday that Garcia has not communicated with his attorneys or his family in months, save for “nonsensical” letters.
Garcia didn’t talk to his attorneys throughout the three-week trial that led to his convictions in the March 2008 deaths of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, and the May 2013 deaths of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65.
Garcia, a former doctor, killed the four as revenge for his firing from Creighton University Medical Center by Thomas’ father, Dr. William Hunter, and Dr. Brumback.
“Either he’s incredibly talented at sounding insane — or he is insane,” Jorgenson said. “I don’t know the answer.”
Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall presented a third option: Maybe Garcia just doesn’t want to talk to his attorneys.
The judge noted that Garcia has often displayed defiant behavior — before, during and after the murder case.
Randall said he has a responsibility to talk to Garcia to ensure that he can actively participate, if he wants to, in the death penalty proceedings against him.
Such an inquiry may be easier said than done. Garcia again refused to come to court Tuesday — the second time he has done so since his October conviction.
However, the judge said, defiance doesn’t necessarily indicate delusions; eccentricity doesn’t equate to insanity.
Randall said Garcia’s writings always have been strange. He wrote of assuming other people’s identities, wearing Band-Aids on his fingers, renting a boat and fleeing through Canada or the Gulf of Mexico. He also wrote reminders to himself to “brush teeth.”
Other writings have been more erratic. While awaiting trial, Garcia once sent a note to jail officials. “I raped babies,” it said.
He also claimed to have been gang-raped by five Douglas County jailers. After those allegations, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine alerted a judge. The judge ordered a competency evaluation and delayed the start of his trial — one of several delays before Garcia ultimately was convicted.
Randall noted that Garcia was defiant in evaluations — one in March 2014 and one in December 2015 — performed by Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrists. He refused to talk to them. Even so, psychiatrists found him competent to stand trial.
Similarly, a Douglas County jail sergeant said Tuesday that Garcia never engages in “small talk” with jailers. He is given orders, he sometimes complies, sometimes refuses and sometimes gives his opinion — and that’s the end of it.
Jorgenson pointed to Garcia’s behavior during his three-week trial.
“You were here, the county attorney was here, media was here,” Jorgenson said. “He was often sleeping (and) never saying one word to us throughout the course of the trial.”
“No, but he’s speaking to the sheriff,” Randall said. “He’s speaking to the court, on occasion.
“I think he made a choice” not to talk to his attorneys, Randall said.
Jorgenson countered: “It is possible that (Mr.) Garcia was exercising an extraordinary amount of will. It’s also possible that his mind has unraveled. I don’t know when or if his mind unraveled, but I think it has to be addressed.
“If not, it would essentially just be a steamroller of justice.”
Both Kleine and the judge questioned why it has taken so long for Garcia’s attorneys to broach the issue. Kleine noted that prosecutors were the ones who sought to have Garcia’s mental health evaluated after the gang-rape comments.
At that point, the defense fought those efforts — saying Garcia was competent and calling Kleine’s attempts to have Garcia evaluated a “ploy” to delay the trial.
Kleine noted that a jail official has said Garcia understands all of the questions posed to him. The county attorney suggested that the judge question Garcia directly.
Randall scheduled a Monday hearing to do so. However, the judge said, he was undecided as to whether he would order Garcia to be extricated from his cell if he refuses to go.
Jury finds aggravating factors that could lead to death penalty for Anthony Garcia
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 29, 2016
Anthony Garcia is halfway to death row.
A Douglas County jury took just 30 minutes Friday — roughly as much time as the judge took to read them instructions — to find that prosecutors had proven three aggravating factors that could lead to the death penalty.
» that Garcia killed multiple people;
» that he killed to conceal his identity; and
» that the killings were especially heinous and cruel and manifested exceptional depravity.
On that last factor, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine displayed the grisly photos of each victim in the case: Thomas Hunter, 11; Shirlee Sherman, 57; and Dr. Roger and Mary Brumback, both 65.
“I’m sorry to show those to you again,” Kleine told jurors. “It’s not fun to look at. Not fun to talk about. But it’s what happened.”
As the images went up, Sherman’s son, Jeff, motioned to his niece to avert her eyes.
Madison, 14, threw her blond hair over her face and covered her eyes. She was just a 6-year-old kindergartner when her grandmother was killed.
In fact, Shirlee Sherman had almost finished cleaning the Hunters’ house and was on her way out to go pick up Madison from school.
“I didn’t want her to see that,” Jeff Sherman said. “I don’t want those to be the lasting memories of her grandmother.”
But other relatives of the victims and the jurors won’t be able to erase those images.
The case now will move to a three-judge panel to determine whether Garcia should receive the death penalty for the revenge-fueled killings of Hunter and Sherman in March 2008 and the Brumbacks in May 2013.
It’s not clear when that panel will convene. Nebraskans will vote Nov. 8 on whether to keep the state’s death penalty. If the death penalty is rejected, then Garcia would get a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
What wasn’t expected Friday: Garcia, 43, didn’t show up for the hearing.
After he refused to leave his cell, a jail sergeant told him he needed to come to court so a jury could determine whether aggravating factors existed that might lead him to death row.
Garcia’s response: “Why would I do that?”
Garcia wasn’t the only no-show. His lead attorney, Robert Motta Jr., also wasn’t present. Robert Motta Sr. appeared, saying Garcia has had no communication with his attorneys or his family. “Our client hasn’t spoken to us for months,” Motta Sr. said.
Garcia’s family was in court, however, to see jurors find a total of 10 out of a possible 12 aggravating factors in the four slayings. The only two aggravators they didn’t identify were that either Thomas Hunter or Sherman was killed to conceal Garcia’s identity.
Kleine said the aggravating factors were no-brainers. The first two: Garcia committed multiple killings and he killed some of the victims so they couldn’t identify him or testify against him.
Kleine spent most of his time on the third prong: that Garcia’s acts were especially heinous and cruel and manifested exceptional depravity.
Photo by photo, Kleine pointed out the terror that must have been going through each victim’s head. He pointed out all the stab wounds to each, including Thomas.
“If that’s not exercising torture and causing mental anguish in that little boy’s head,” Kleine said, “I don’t know what is.”
Motta Sr. said he didn’t have anything to say that could “rebuke those photographs.” He asked jurors to consider other images they have seen of disgusting violence such as beheadings — apparently referencing ISIS-level atrocities — and compare it.
“I can’t tell you what to think or what to decide,” Motta said. “All I can tell you is to look to your respective religions and God and make a decision based on that.”
After the jurors made their decision, members of Sherman’s family stood up and removed their sweaters and sweatshirts. On their T-shirts were no words. Just two images — images the families would rather remember. The top half of the T-shirt: Thomas, smiling through his braces. The bottom half: Shirlee Sherman, a smile of contentment.
“I know she’s at peace,” Jeff Sherman said. “I’m hoping that all of the families — the Hunters, the Brumbacks — can now have a little bit of peace.”
Trial day 17 - ‘They got the right guy,’ Thomas Hunter's mother says; Anthony Garcia is found guilty on all counts
By Todd Cooper, Alia Conley and Christopher Burbach - World-Herald staff writers
October 28, 2016
Rob Hunter sat 20 feet from Anthony Garcia, the man accused of plunging a knife through his little brother’s neck.
His mom, Dr. Claire Hunter, was beside him. His brother Jeff Hunter on the other side.
Rob threw his arms around both as the family braced for a clerk to read the jury’s verdict on count 1.
Count 1 — the murder charge connected to Thomas Hunter, 11 — would be the tell: the verdict that would portend the eight others in the mystery of who committed the grisly crimes that rocked Omaha in 2008 and 2013. Prosecutors had evidence in the killings of Thomas and Shirlee Sherman, 57, but it wasn’t nearly as staggering as the evidence that Garcia had killed Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary.
In a courtroom packed with grieving families, lined with police officers and sheriff’s deputies and filled with tension, Court Clerk John Friend began his usual soliloquy:
“We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn to well and truly try ... do find said defendant ...”
Rob Hunter gripped the shoulder of his mother’s gray sweater.
“GUILTY of Count 1, murder in the first degree ...”
Claire Hunter clasped her son’s knee.
“GUILTY of Count 2, use of a weapon ...”
Rob Hunter’s chest started to heave.
With every successive guilty declaration, Rob gave his mom’s shoulder a squeeze.
And so it went on down the row. With each pronouncement of guilt, the Hunters held together more tightly.
And behind them, Sherman’s family. Her brother, Brad Waite, wiped away a tear as his wife, Mary, hugged him. Tears welled in the eyes of Sherman’s son, Jeff, 42, and her granddaughter, Madison, 14.
And somewhere in California, Utah and Colorado — they didn’t want to be in court — the Brumbacks’ adult children breathed sighs of relief.
Anthony Garcia is guilty. Guilty of the savage killings of four of society’s most innocent:
» Dr. Roger Brumback, a grandpa and medical doctor who devoted his life to health care, particularly focusing on children and the elderly.
» His wife, Mary Brumback, an active volunteer, grandma and former lawyer who penned letters to her daughter once a week and had just attended her first grandchild’s baptism.
» Thomas Hunter, a witty and intelligent sixth-grader who had just hopped off the bus and descended to the basement to drink a Dr Pepper and play Xbox.
» And Shirlee Sherman, a hard-working sister, mother and doting grandmother with six grandkids.
That March 13, 2008, day, Sherman was almost done cleaning the Hunters’ Dundee home, ready to pick up Madison, then 6, from kindergarten when Garcia caught Sherman near the back stairs. He poked and stabbed her neck 17 times before plunging the knife all the way through.
“The son of a bitch,” Brad Waite said.
For his part, Garcia showed no emotion, only resignation.
As the guilty counts rolled, he cocked his head back and to the left and leaned back in his chair, his left arm dangling off the arm of the chair rest.
Two rows behind him, his mother, Estella, had cupped a tissue in her hands. She dropped her head into a full weep and leaned into the shoulder of her husband. That man, Frederick Garcia — who had packed an old van and driven his son across the country for his first doctor’s job after medical school — lowered his chin.
As a judge dismissed jurors, Anthony Garcia rose from his seat.
“You ready?” he asked deputies, before shuffling to jail.
Outside, the victims’ families released years of angst and anguish.
Claire Hunter and sons Rob and Jeff smiled with relief. Claire’s husband, Dr. William Hunter, testified at trial to his firing of Garcia and to finding Thomas and Sherman at home. However, he didn’t attend either the closing arguments or Wednesday’s verdict.
In her first public comments about the crimes, Claire Hunter told The World-Herald that the case is as staggering today as it was in March 2008 — “when you get a call from a friend and you’re told two people are dead and you don’t even know which two people they are.”
Garcia “was a guy who my husband didn’t hire, didn’t say a word when they fired him, and he comes back seven years later and kills our son?” Claire Hunter said. “That’s not a normal response, not even to anger. That’s not revenge — stabbing somebody 18 times in the neck.
“What he did to those four people is animal.”
Up next: The jury of six men and six women, who deliberated 7½ hours before reaching their verdict, will reconvene Friday to determine whether prosecutors have proven aggravating factors that could send Garcia to death row. A three-judge panel will convene later.
“What I can’t get over is how could you do that to a little boy?” said Brad Waite, Sherman’s brother, after the verdict. “How could you do that to Shirlee, a grandmother who cared for everyone and wouldn’t hurt anybody? To (Roger Brumback) as he just answers the door? And Mary Brumback, the hell she went through as she fought him off?
“He didn’t just kill them. It was torture.”
Prosecutors Don Kleine and Brenda Beadle said he did all of it for a twisted reason: He couldn’t land a job, or a lasting medical license, because of his firing from Creighton University Medical Center by Dr. William Hunter and Dr. Brumback.
As the eventual victims went about their daily lives, Garcia reeled — his life circling the drain.
After his arrest, detectives found a trove of evidence in his nearly abandoned Terre Haute, Indiana, home.
In his kitchen sink were the remnants of his reeling — all the evidence that prosecutors needed of his festering grudge.
So much stark evidence piled in and just outside the sink:
» The honest reviews of Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, one of Garcia’s bosses in the pathology department at Creighton University Medical Center. Bewtra labeled Garcia as disruptive, manipulative, anti-authoritarian. She gave him essentially the lowest possible marks, concluding that his knowledge was “very poor,” that he “took no initiative” and “no responsibility for his cases.”
» The rambling writings of a man with a plan: Steal the identity of another Anthony Garcia. Stalk him. Mimic his daily activities.
» The not-so-cryptic notes that Garcia wrote to himself. Wear Band-Aids on your fingertips. Wear common Sears-bought shoes. Park away from the house. And his escape plans: Rent a boat. Hide gun in hand. Flee via Canada or the Gulf of Mexico.
» And the penultimate piece of the puzzle: The June 26, 2001, letter confirming Garcia’s termination from Creighton University Medical Center for a series of disruptive acts, including sabotaging another resident’s important medical exams.
Signed by Drs. Brumback and Hunter.
Claire Hunter said her husband is an “unbelievably awarded professor” — beloved by his students. He even had done Garcia a favor after firing him — writing him a generic letter of recommendation.
“What program directors do is you try to mentor people,” Claire Hunter said. “For those of us who are in that business, when you see a (generic) letter like that, you’re like ‘eh, this is a so-so person’ ... You’re hopeful they go to the next place and take advantage of a different environment.
“You try not to ruin their life.”
There’s no undoing the ruin that Garcia caused, she said.
Hunter said she needed to be there for the trial — to see what happened to her youngest son, a waif of a boy with braces and bushy brown hair.
She spent the first few days trying to avert her eyes as prosecutors detailed Tom’s and Shirlee’s deaths.
“That awful first week ... awful, awful first week.”
She kept coming to court to see it, though. Sherman’s family also attended every day of trial, every hearing, in fact. Waite noted that Wednesday was the 1,200th day since Garcia’s July 15, 2013, arrest.
The Brumbacks’ children, who testified earlier in the trial, didn’t want to attend, didn’t want their parents’ brutal deaths to be their lasting memories.
“You have to remember for five years, we didn’t know who it was,” Claire Hunter said. “I wanted to hear all the evidence. I wanted to be able to make my own determination.”
“They got the right guy,” she said. “That’s all you can say. They got the right guy.”
There was something that Brad Waite wanted to say, too.
He wanted to tell Claire Hunter how grateful he was that her husband had fired Garcia so he couldn’t enter the medical field and do harm there.
So, an hour after the verdict, the families of the victims gathered in a first-floor conference room. More than 15 family members cried and smiled and shared a bond borne of the wicked acts of one man.
And then Kleine, Beadle and Deputy County Attorney Sean Lynch led a trail of more than a dozen police officers into the room.
Among them: Omaha Police Detectives Derek Mois and Scott Warner. Mois had testified that he and Warner never will forget the day that they walked into the Brumbacks’ house at 11421 Shirley St.
The two men had been among the first detectives on the scene at the Hunters’ home in 2008.
As they soft-shoed through the bloody scene, they looked at each other with a knowing glance: This is the work of the Thomas Hunter-Shirlee Sherman killer or killers, they thought.
“We didn’t even know the name of the (Brumbacks) at the time,” Mois testified.
Together, those two and about 10 other detectives who exhaustively worked the case — along with Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, who formed a task force after the Brumback killings — filed into the courthouse conference room Wednesday. One homicide detective lagged behind, clearly spent. “I’m out of hugs,” he said, circles under his eyes.
They opened the door.
The 15 family members — four generations of loved ones — stood and roared with applause.
“Happy tears, this time,” Waite said.
Trial day 16 - In Anthony Garcia trial, defense and prosecution go at it one last time before handing case to jury
By Christopher Burbach and Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writers
October 26, 2016
In the end, six hours of emotion-wringing, seat-shifting and polar opposite closing arguments Tuesday boiled down to four words, courtesy of our second president.
“Facts are stubborn things.”
John Adams said it.
Anthony Garcia’s defense attorney, Robert Motta Jr., pounded it as his theme in a spirited, wide-ranging argument capping his defense against charges that Garcia killed 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman on March 13, 2008, and former boss Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65, on May 12, 2013.
Jurors deliberated for 3½ hours Tuesday before retiring to a downtown hotel, where they are being sequestered. They’ll resume deliberations this morning.
In a three-hour closing, Motta, an attorney from Chicago, said Omaha police had no direct evidence placing Garcia at either of the two double-slaying scenes. He accused Omaha police of planting searches on Garcia’s phone and implied that they planted a gun on a roadside near his home.
And then prosecutor Brenda Beadle used President Adams’ words against Motta.
She repeatedly pointed to what she says are the “stubborn facts” of this case:
» That Garcia’s motive was rooted in his ongoing frustration over his inability to get a job or a lasting medical license after his 2001 firing from Creighton University Medical Center by Thomas’ father, Dr. William Hunter, and Dr. Brumback.
» That Garcia confessed to an exotic dancer that he killed a “young boy and an old woman.”
» That Garcia was in Omaha on May 12, 2013. He tried to break into a third doctor’s house and was thwarted. He then used his credit card at a Wing Stop and searched for the Brumbacks’ address on his iPhone in the parking lot of the restaurant near 72nd and Pacific Streets.
“Why is he in Omaha, all the way from Indiana, for four short hours that day?” Beadle asked. “It’s not the wings.”
» That the kitchen sink in Garcia’s abandoned Terre Haute, Indiana, home contained all the evidence of his quest for revenge: the poor reviews from his bosses, the termination letter and the bizarre writings in which he charted a way to either end his own life or start a new one.
“Those facts are stubborn,” Beadle said.
Having presented all of that, Beadle shook her head at Motta’s closing argument.
“I feel it was just the rantings of a lunatic,” she said, “and maybe we weren’t even seeing the same trial.”
Motta took jurors through what he didn’t see: any direct evidence placing Garcia at any of the scenes.
“No fingerprints. No fibers. No DNA.”
Motta left nothing unchallenged — including the idea that Garcia was angry at Creighton.
He noted that Garcia had landed jobs at other medical programs after Creighton. And, he said, prosecutors had presented no evidence, no enraged emails after Garcia left, indicating that he harbored any resentment toward Creighton. In fact, he said, there’s no evidence that Garcia knew that Creighton was bad-mouthing him.
“You have to have knowledge that something exists before you can seek revenge for it,” Motta said.
Beadle called that and several of Motta’s other assertions “ludicrous.”
Two weeks before the killings of Thomas and Sherman, Beadle said, Louisiana State University medical officials fired Garcia from their psychiatry residency program after they discovered that he had failed to mention on his application anything about his termination from Creighton.
Beadle said there’s ample evidence that Garcia was flailing.
“The only time he is a big-time doctor is when he was at the (strip) club and the deejay said, ‘Dr. Tony’s in the house,’ ” Beadle said.
Beadle defended the credibility of Cecilia Hoffmann, the Indiana exotic dancer who testified that Garcia confessed to her that he had killed “an old woman and a young boy.” Hoffmann had nothing to gain, Beadle said.
She agreed with Motta that it would be unusual for someone to hold a grudge for 12 years, as prosecutors say Garcia did. But Garcia, she said, is “not normal.” And she asserted that evidence showed that he traced his spiraling career to his firing from Creighton University Medical Center as a resident physician.
Beadle urged jurors to discount Motta’s theories as red herrings.
As she closed her rebuttal, she showed pictures of the four victims on a courtroom screen. In these photos, in stark contrast to bloody crime scene pictures shown earlier in the day, Thomas, Sherman and the Brumbacks were smiling.
“They’re the victims of Anthony J. Garcia’s twisted revenge,” Beadle said. “Please bring justice to these families.”
In his closing argument, Motta said the only justice is a verdict of not guilty.
Motta called the case a rush to judgment. Once police locked on Garcia, he said, they stopped looking at anyone else.
Motta also contended that prosecutors failed to prove the Brumbacks’ time of death, citing a defense expert’s testimony that it couldn’t have happened while Garcia was in Omaha.
Motta implied that the authorities deliberately left out or didn’t pursue the Brumbacks’ landline phone records or banking records to determine whether they were alive after Garcia left Omaha.
“It’s either really bad police work or it’s something nefarious,” Motta told jurors.
Beadle objected several times to things Motta said. Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall sustained many of the objections. Motta grew agitated as the objections mounted. At one point, he turned and glared at Beadle and Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.
Motta noted that only two neighbors of the Brumbacks heard gunshot-like noises the day that prosecutors say the couple died, while most neighbors didn’t hear anything.
On the killings of Thomas and Sherman, Motta said neighbors who saw a man outside the Hunters’ house the day of the killing did not identify Garcia as that person.
“If they can’t be sure, how can you be sure?” Motta said. “Know what they call that? Reasonable doubt.”
Motta said prosecutors had not produced emails or other evidence of Garcia harboring hatred against his two former bosses, Drs. Hunter and Brumback.
“To do that kind of butchery, that’s hate in your heart,” Motta said. “In those 12 years, what did you see that was so horrible that makes you believe that this guy would hold that much hate in his heart for 12 years and decide he was going to come back and kill? ... I don’t see it.”
The two things that prosecutors proved, Motta said: Garcia was a bad resident at Creighton. And he was a strip club connoisseur.
“Dr. Tony was like Norm at Cheers,” Motta said of Garcia at the strip club. “Everyone knew him when he walked in the door.”
In a long, musing trip into the mind of an exotic dancer and her customers, Motta argued that Hoffmann was too drunk and high to know if Garcia said he had killed two people and that she was seeking publicity by claiming that he had.
“‘I killed a young boy and an old lady?’” Motta said. “That’s the worst pickup line in the history of the world.”
Prosecutors “put together a nice narrative,” he said.
“It fits,” Motta said. “Only problem is, there’s no evidence. Just giant circumstantial leaps.”
Beadle and Kleine called it a “mountain of evidence.”
As he began his closing, Kleine pointed to a Shakespeare quote that was among Garcia’s Internet searches: “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
“We didn’t make that up,” Kleine said. “That’s not something we pulled out of thin air and said, ‘Let’s have a theme for the case.’”
At one point, Kleine’s chin quivered as he described Dr. Hunter “watching his little boy off for the last time” the morning of Thomas’ death. He later showed jurors graphic photos of the victims from the crime scenes and the autopsy table.
As quietly as Kleine spoke through most of his speech, the pictures spoke loudly.
The case is about the four people who died, he said.
“These people’s lives were ended,” he said. “Their existence on this planet is gone. They were ripped away from their families. That’s what this case is about.”
Trial day 15 - After final attempts to poke holes in prosecution's case, defense rests in Anthony Garcia trial
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 25, 2016
It was the last stand for Anthony Garcia’s defense team in their battle to persuade jurors to find him not guilty.
The seven witnesses who testified Monday capped the defense’s 3½ days of testimony that sought to poke holes in the prosecution’s evidence.
Some witnesses were more compelling than others — and one couldn’t remember anything.
Prosecutors fought back by calling three experts to the stand to rebut the defense’s arguments.
The quadruple-murder trial that was expected to last up to six weeks shifts to closing arguments Tuesday morning, after about three weeks of testimony.
Then, the jury will decide Garcia’s fate.
The defense spent much of Monday — day 15 of the trial — trying to chip away at four key elements of the prosecution’s case:
» The time of death of Roger and Mary Brumback. The couple’s bodies were found on May 14. Prosecutors say they were killed shortly after speaking with their daughter two days earlier, on Mother’s Day.
Dr. Francisco Diaz, a forensic pathologist for the defense, said that based on the stiffness and decomposition of the bodies, the Brumbacks were not killed between 3 and 5 p.m. May 12, as the prosecution contends.
“My opinion is that time frame is not feasible based on post-mortem findings,” Diaz testified.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine contrasted how Diaz had said it’s nearly impossible to provide a specific time of death yet somehow was able to rule out that two-hour time span.
For the state, Dr. Michelle Elieff testified again that post-mortem conditions can vary greatly and shouldn’t be the only clue to determine a time of death.
“It’s a factor, it has to be used with other factors,” she said.
It is possible that the Brumbacks were killed on that Sunday afternoon, or later that night, she said.
Garcia’s lawyers have questioned how someone could have shot the Brumbacks on a beautiful Mother’s Day — and no one heard it. They called three more neighbors, in addition to two last week, who said they didn’t hear any loud noises or gunshots that afternoon.
Prosecutors had countered with a neighbor who did hear three shots that Sunday afternoon.
» That a fifth homicide wasn’t connected. The defense contends that the November 2007 killing of Joy Blanchard was related to the March 2008 Dundee slayings of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman. Prosecutors say that claim is baseless.
Defense Attorney Robert Motta Sr. and Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle clashed on whether the defense could introduce photos of the Blanchard killing.
Judge Gary Randall ultimately allowed it.
Diaz testified that the Blanchard fatal stabbing was similar to the Dundee slayings. Knives were left in all three victim’s necks.
“It is suggestive that there was the same perpetrator or perpetrators,” Diaz testified.
Omaha police officers investigated the link between the homicides but ultimately determined it to be unfounded. Blanchard’s nephew, Charles Simmer, is awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge in connection to her death.
Prosecutors pointed out differences. A banister spindle was used as a weapon in the Blanchard case. And Blanchard’s carotid artery and jugular vein were not severed as with both of the Dundee killings.
Kenneth Langhorst, Blanchard’s longtime boyfriend, gave tearful testimony about when he came upon Blanchard’s body.
He also said he didn’t know Sherman or the Hunter family. Nor did he know a former boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter — whom defense attorneys attempted to pinpoint as a killer.
» The idea that Garcia was the only one who could have killed.
The defense repeatedly brought up the former boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter, whom Sherman had a protection order against.
Elizabeth Stiles, a friend and next-door neighbor of Sherman’s, testified that she received a strange phone call from the boyfriend on the day of the killing.
A ladder appeared outside the back of Sherman’s home soon after, and remained for a couple days, Stiles testified, which she found odd.
The ex-boyfriend bothered Sherman, Stiles said.
Of little value to the defense was the ex-boyfriend’s supervisor in March 2008. He couldn’t recall whether the ex-boyfriend was at work on the day of the Dundee killings.
» That the magazine clip found at the Brumbacks’ house could match a pistol that Garcia purchased.
Prosecutors called their gun expert to counter testimony from the defense on the magazine found near the front door of the Brumbacks’ house.
Last week, Richard Renz offered his opinion for the defense that the scratched magazine would match a gun worn and used daily for eight to 10 months. Garcia purchased his handgun two months before the Brumback killings.
Omaha police senior crime lab technician Dan Bredow said any perceived wear on the magazine was from crime-scene investigators applying chemicals and dusting it for fingerprints, not from extended use.
“There’s no way to determine a magazine usage by wear,” Bredow said. “It’s not possible to do.”
However, Garcia’s lawyer Jeremy Jorgenson pointed out that Renz based his determination on the blemishes and nicks to the steel on the magazine, not on how dirty it was.
The day also was notable for the witnesses the defense didn’t call.
Forensic scientist Karl Reich had testified last week before the judge — but outside earshot of the jury — that Garcia couldn’t have left skin cells on doorknobs at the home of Dr. Chhanda Bewtra.
Jorgenson hoped to call Reich again Monday to testify to that fact with the jury present.
Such a move could have allowed prosecutors to counter Reich’s testimony by introducing DNA results that they say connect Garcia to the doorknobs much more convincingly. Prosecutors say Garcia attempted to enter the Bewtra home on May 12, 2013.
As he has remained for much of the trial, Garcia stayed silent and didn’t take the stand.
His choice to not testify wasn’t a surprise.
“It was his opinion that based on three years of incarceration, and 23 hours per day of isolation, he was in no position to get on the stand,” Robert Motta Jr. told Randall on Monday while the jury was not present. “It was solely his decision.”
Trial day 14 - Motel clerk says Anthony Garcia seemed like a typical guest on day prosecutors say Brumbacks were slain
By Alia Conley and Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writers
October 22, 2016
A typical guest.
That’s how Yvonne Villalpando remembers Anthony Garcia when he checked into the West Des Moines Motel 6 on Mother’s Day 2013.
Garcia arrived hungry that evening and asked Villalpando for the best taco spot.
He didn’t have cuts on his hands. He wasn’t bleeding. Not sweaty or nervous.
A normal guy, defense attorney Robert Motta Jr. argued, not someone who could have killed two people hours earlier, as prosecutors allege.
But even Villalpando’s testimony on the 14th day of the quadruple-murder trial fits with the state’s theory — that Garcia’s check-in time meant that he had plenty of time to drive the two hours from Omaha to the motel just off Interstate 80.
Villalpando first thought she gave Garcia his room key about 5:30 p.m. May 12, 2013 — two hours after her shift started.
But records show it was actually at 6:58 p.m.
Garcia received a call at 5:18 p.m. that pinged off a cell tower near Atlantic, Iowa, Omaha police Detective Derek Mois had testified last week.
Prosecutors believe Roger and Mary Brumback were killed at their west Omaha home in the late afternoon, then Garcia headed back to his home in Terre Haute, Indiana, staying the night in West Des Moines.
About 30 minutes after Garcia checked in, he emerged with a small woman with short hair and a tattoo, Villalpando testified.
The couple left the lobby and returned about an hour later.
“I have to acknowledge everyone that passes through,” Villalpando said. “That’s our rules.”
She figured that the woman, who wasn’t with Garcia at check-in, was hiding at first so that Garcia could pay for one person instead of two.
Villalpando’s testimony capped a short lineup for the defense’s third day of testimony.
The jury could begin deliberating as early as Tuesday.
But first, they had to sit through — for the second time — an exhaustive and complicated explanation of Garcia’s phone and Apple iCloud records.
Officer Nick Herfordt had already testified for the state, explaining that he found Whitepages.com searches for “Roger A. Brumback” in the web history of Garcia’s iPhone that police recovered from his sport utility vehicle after his arrest July 15, 2013.
But Giovanni Masucci, a digital forensic scientist who analyzed Herfordt’s reports on the devices and not the data itself, testified Friday that he found “red flags” in Herfordt’s procedures:
» Proper protocol is to videotape or take photos as a forensic examiner extracts the data, Masucci said. That was not done.
“It’s kind of vague, actually, his process and what he’s done,” Masucci said.
» Herfordt used his wiped and formatted iPhone 3G to download Garcia’s iCloud data. But the “clean” phone still held Herfordt’s SIM card, Masucci said, which contains text messages, phone numbers and carrier information. That could lead to contaminated data, he said.
» Garcia’s phone contains web searches and Wi-Fi connections on July 27, 2013 — nearly two weeks after Garcia was arrested.
“What that tells me is somebody touched the phone after the fact and nobody put that in the call logs,” Masucci said.
Yet during cross-examination, Masucci acknowledged that he didn’t have the evidence property logs or chain of custody forms in the reports he reviewed.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine argued that the defense didn’t give Masucci all of the sufficient information in order to make a complete conclusion.
During Masucci’s testimony, defense attorneys had searched for “Brumback” in Herfordt’s summarized report of the data entries. Nothing showed up.
But prosecutors downloaded the raw data and also searched for “Brumback,” and a Whitepages entry appeared.
“You didn’t decide to look at the raw data?” Kleine asked.
“I didn’t have access,” Masucci said.
“You didn’t ask to see it, either?” Kleine pushed.
“I was tasked to look at what I was hired to look at,” Masucci said.
The defense hoped that two other witnesses would help bolster their idea that the Brumbacks were killed at night or the following day, meaning Garcia couldn’t have committed the act. A husband and wife who live near the Brumback home said they didn’t hear gunshots on May 12, 2013, between 3 and 5 p.m.
They also testified that their television’s volume was turned on high for the husband’s mother, who also had a loud oxygen machine.
The attorney acrimony that has been a staple of the Garcia trial added another page Friday.
After jurors were dismissed, prosecutors noted that a police report entered during their questioning of a defense expert contained a list of evidence that Judge Gary Randall had not allowed: namely, items from Garcia’s SUV when he was arrested.
Those items: his phone, which the expert was testifying about; a .45-caliber gun; a crowbar; a sledgehammer; a stethoscope; and a Louisiana State University lab coat. (FBI agents have testified that they feared Garcia was going to harm someone else at LSU on the day they pulled him over in southern Illinois.)
The defense hadn’t objected to that police report when it was entered. And at the bench, defense attorney Jeremy Jorgenson argued it was just a demonstrative exhibit, not admissible as evidence. Randall informed him that wasn’t the case.
Motta accused prosecutors of “lying” and being “sleazy” in getting the list admitted into evidence.
Motta called Kleine a “jackass.”
Hot, Kleine stepped toward Motta. The two argued.
Kleine then turned to the judge and told him to take the report out of evidence.
Kleine said he was afraid that if the judge didn’t, Garcia will be able to claim he has “incompetent counsel.”
“Now that was excessively mean,” Randall said.
“And him calling Don a jackass isn’t?” Beadle chimed in.
Motta: “He called me a jackass first.”
Kleine and Beadle called on Randall to reprimand Motta. The judge had ordered Motta to sit down three times and threatened to hold him in contempt on Thursday.
“They have lied to the court, they have lied to us,” Kleine fired at the defense.
“Well, we think you’re liars, too,” Motta casually replied.
As the two sides continued to squabble, Randall dismissed them.
“Take it out of my courtroom if you’re going to do this,” he said.
Trial day 13 - On second day of Anthony Garcia’s defense, his lawyers further test judge's patience
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 21, 2016
Maybe he was still stinging from a judge’s admonishment Wednesday to tread softly while introducing evidence from a defense DNA expert.
Maybe it was the no-love-lost relationship between the defense and prosecutors.
Maybe it was his earlier promise of a scorched-earth approach to the case.
Whatever the reason, Robert Motta Jr. came out fuming and firing Thursday during the second day of Anthony Garcia’s defense against charges that he killed Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in March 2008 and Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary in May 2013.
In a hearing before jurors entered the courtroom, Motta was shouting so much about evidence he wanted to present that Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall ordered him to sit down three times. On the last, the judge adopted his best stern-father voice.
“I’m going to hold you in contempt if you cannot hold your temper,” Randall said calmly, his eyebrows raised.
And so it went Thursday — Day 13 of Garcia’s quadruple-murder trial.
It was a day that featured far more attorney acrimony than actual evidentiary action.
It also marked the first time in at least 15 years that a Douglas County judge has publicly threatened to hold an attorney in contempt during a murder trial. A recent civil trial saw another judge caution a New York attorney that she would strip the lawyer’s right to practice in Nebraska. But no judge or court administrator could recall an in-court rebuke as strong as Randall’s on Thursday.
Of course, this isn’t the first go-round between Judge Randall and Team Motta, the Chicago attorneys Garcia hired. Randall stripped Motta’s wife, Alison, of her ability to speak in court or sit at the defense table after she, on the eve of Garcia’s last-scheduled trial, told several reporters that DNA exonerated Garcia and implicated another man in the Hunter and Sherman killings.
Robert Motta Jr., who this summer promised a scorched-earth approach to the case, has raised eyebrows and ire. He said he wouldn’t apologize for making one witness cry because “this is a life or death case.” He said a body that had been autopsied — which Garcia botched — was as big as a Volkswagen bug. And he has carped, loudly, about things as big as evidentiary rulings and as small as needing a bathroom break.
Randall’s typical patient presence was tested Thursday as Motta and co-counsel Jeremy Jorgenson launched a scattershot defense.
In no particular order, the defense has brought up allegations that:
» The killings of Thomas Hunter and Sherman were connected to the November 2007 slaying of Joy Blanchard. (The FBI and Omaha police investigated that possibility because the killer left knives in the victims’ necks at both scenes. However, authorities later ruled out a connection.)
» DNA connects Charles Simmer, the nephew charged with killing Blanchard, to the Hunter and Sherman killings. (That allegation — which authorities say is unfounded — got Alison Motta booted off of the case.)
» A Russian doctor who was once in Creighton’s pathology department could have committed the killings. Motta alleged that he was Omaha police’s prime suspect for four years.
» DNA could connect an ex-boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter to the Hunter/Sherman death scene and the Blanchard slaying.
That last allegation was the focus of the defense’s opening salvo to the judge Thursday.
With jurors out of earshot, Motta started the day by suggesting that he had received a “pretty shocking” revelation that DNA connects the ex-boyfriend to the Blanchard and Hunter scenes.
Prosecutors called that nonsense. Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle pointed out that the odds attached to the ex-boyfriend’s DNA were 1 in 22 that somebody else could have left the DNA at the Blanchard scene. In a significant DNA test, the odds are 1 in a billion or trillion or quadrillion.
At that, Motta mocked prosecutors, saying that the ex-boyfriend’s odds, however paltry, are more significant than the odds that Garcia left his skin cells at the house of a third Creighton pathologist on the day prosecutors say the Brumbacks were killed.
“It’s stronger than the evidence the state has against my client,” Motta scoffed.
As the judge raised questions about the strength of his evidence, Motta pounded the same theme, over and over: “I don’t have to prove anything. We’re not the police. ... But I have a right to raise these issues.”
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine disagreed. He said the defense has to be able to make a connection between the crimes and the purported suspects it mentions.
“We’re not saying they don’t get to raise issues,” Kleine said. “But the tie-ins have to be reasonably specific. It can’t just be speculation.”
On the speculation front, Kleine and Beadle complained to Judge Randall that Garcia’s defense team continually has sprung new theories and new witnesses, without proper notice to them. Prosecutors and defense attorneys typically are required to supply each other with reports about witnesses and evidence long before trial.
At that, Motta countered that he had just gotten a couple of binders in the case.
“Alison just texted me that she picked up (the evidence) yesterday from Don Kleine,” he said.
“That’s nonsense,” Kleine said. “You’ve had that for months.”
“That’s a lie,” Beadle chimed in. “We haven’t talked to Alison Motta in years. She’s not a part of this case. She was banned.”
“She’s not banned from this case,” Motta shot back.
Randall jumped in, eyeballing Motta.
“I’m not asking you to argue with them,” the judge said. “I’m asking you to talk to me.”
Kleine then lobbed another complaint: Motta had told him two weeks ago that he wouldn’t be using a phone expert. Thursday, Motta told prosecutors he would be calling that expert.
“I trusted his word, which was a mistake, apparently,” Kleine said.
“I’ve had the (phone expert) endorsed as a witness for weeks,” Motta countered. “He chose not to depose him.”
Kleine: “Because you said you weren’t going to call him.”
Motta shot out of his seat.
Randall: “Mr. Motta, take a deep breath.”
“I’m sick of his mouth,” Motta hollered, jabbing a finger in Kleine’s direction.
Randall: “Sit down Mr. Motta. I’m going to hold you in contempt if you cannot hold your temper.”
It wasn’t Motta’s first full-throated yelling. A week ago, on Day 8, he walked up to a witness — a former exotic dancer who said Garcia told her he killed an “old woman and a young boy” — and shouted so loud that Jorgenson later asked if Motta’s “screaming could be heard in the hallway.”
But even seemingly insignificant moments have been barb-filled. Once, Motta asked about the possibility of a pet cat at the Hunter house.
Beadle: “Objection, speculation.”
Motta raised his palms. “This is all speculation.”
Motta: “No, I mean this case.”
Thursday, Garcia’s defense didn’t get far in its attempts to speculate. For one, Judge Randall ruled that Motta couldn’t suggest that the ex-boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter had something to do with the Blanchard killing — at least not without more evidence.
One of the defense’s two witnesses was virtually worthless. She had no recollection of the day Hunter and Sherman were killed.
The other witness was a gun and “close-quarters combat” expert who had never testified as an expert before.
His testimony backfired a bit.
Richard Renz, a Virginia Beach man and former chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy, said he worked in support of several Navy SEAL teams and now trains police and soldiers to have a “combat mindset.”
Renz said he reviewed the crime-scene photos at the Brumback house. He noted all the defensive wounds on Mary Brumback.
“It was a battle,” Renz said, his eyes swimming. “She was very brave — very brave to be able to stay in the fight as long as she did with those kinds of wounds.”
Jorgenson turned to the gun parts found near the Brumbacks’ bodies — a recoil spring, a retaining loop and a magazine of bullets. Renz said he would attribute the condition of the magazine to extensive use over 8 to 10 months.
He said it wouldn’t be consistent with someone who had purchased it two months earlier.
Under prosecutors’ questioning, Renz acknowledged the three gun parts near the Brumbacks’ bodies were from a Smith & Wesson SD9VE — the type of gun that Garcia had purchased two months before the Brumbacks’ deaths.
Kleine: “Definitely from a Smith & Wesson SD9VE?”
Renz: “Yes, sir.”
Trial day 12 - In opening of defense, Anthony Garcia's attorneys take aim at DNA tests linking him to Creighton doctor's home
By Todd Cooper and Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writers
October 20, 2016
The power of DNA is in its ability to implicate or exonerate or exclude.
It rarely is this explosive.
On Wednesday, Anthony Garcia’s attorneys opened his defense in a quadruple-murder trial by taking dead aim at DNA tests on skin cells that were left at the home of Creighton Dr. Chhanda Bewtra on the same day that prosecutors say her colleague, Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, were killed.
A prosecution expert had said that Garcia couldn’t be ruled out as the person who left the skin cells on the Bewtras’ back door handles.
The defense countered with its first witness: A DNA expert ready to state that, in his opinion, there was no way to connect Garcia to the door handles.
Garcia “is excluded as a contributor to this sample” on the Bewtras’ door knobs, said Karl Reich, an Illinois DNA analyst hired by the defense. “There is no other possible conclusion.”
Jurors never got to hear that testimony.
The reason? Judge Gary Randall warned Garcia’s defense team that if their expert made any grand conclusions that Garcia did not leave his DNA on the Bewtras’ house, it would open the door for prosecutors to attempt to introduce an advanced DNA analysis indicating that he likely did.
This summer, prosecutors had given notice of their intent to introduce a Pittsburgh company’s analysis that placed staggering odds on Garcia being the source of the skin cells on the Bewtras’ door.
However, at the defense’s request, Randall barred prosecutors from doing so, in part because, he said, it risked delaying Garcia’s trial for a fourth time.
But the judge’s ban on prosecutors using the analysis came with a catch: He warned the defense to tread lightly in any claims debunking the DNA tests.
He reissued that warning during a Wednesday afternoon recess — and Garcia’s team erupted.
In court, attorney Robert Motta Jr., blasted the judge, claiming that he was muzzling the defense’s expert. Co-counsel Jeremy Jorgenson told the judge that he was setting himself up for reversal on appeal, should Garcia be convicted in the March 2008 killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, and the May 2013 deaths of the Brumbacks.
If the judge cuts “the defendant off at the knees,” Jorgenson said, “the case ought to be and probably will be reversed on appeal.”
Randall turned beet red.
“Thank you for the threat,” he said, glaring at Jorgenson.
Outside court, Motta and Jorgenson were beside themselves.
“Give me a break,” Jorgenson said. “We can’t have our scientific expert come in and say what the science is?”
Motta said their expert is “a brilliant guy, like a true scientist.”
“And we couldn’t have him say what we wanted him to say,” Motta said.
“Not what we wanted him to say. What the science says.”
In court, Randall said he wasn’t precluding the defense from presenting any testimony.
“You seem to misunderstand what I’m telling you,” Randall told Jorgenson. “You need to be prepared for prosecutors to present rebuttal evidence.”
The state would have disputed the defense expert’s conclusion. Reich’s study of the DNA tests — and the difference between what’s known as “peak heights” on the tests — led him to conclude that there were two people’s DNA profiles on the door handles.
The state’s expert — University of Nebraska Medical Center DNA analyst Mellissa Helligso — said she didn’t believe that there were two people’s DNA profiles on the handles. She instead attributed any differences in peak heights to the fact that it was a very small DNA sample.
Wednesday’s dust-up didn’t address what the state considers more convincing DNA evidence: a different form of DNA testing that likely links the skin cells on the door to Garcia or a male member of his family. The defense expert was never asked about that conclusion.
Afterward, Motta and Jorgenson were sorting their options. Once the judge excused jurors for the day, the defense had Reich issue his opinion in order to “preserve the record for appellate review,” Jorgenson said.
But it wasn’t heard by the people who will decide Garcia’s fate: the six men and six women of the jury.
“It puts us in a very tough spot,” Motta said at day’s end.
Before the state closed its case midday, prosecutors presented evidence of the tough spot that Garcia was in, in the days before his arrest.
Their final two witnesses offered more insight into the life and mind of Garcia.
Of the hundreds of papers that Omaha police officers found in a chemical bath in the kitchen sink of Garcia’s Terre Haute, Indiana, home, at least a dozen were highlighted by prosecutor Brenda Beadle.
Omaha Police Detective Ryan Davis had collected the papers, dried them and made copies in case the originals would further fade. A few papers were ink-stained, others were partially waterlogged and damaged.
Some were printed documents: the termination letter from Creighton University with Drs. Roger Brumback and William Hunter’s names listed at the bottom and a letter from the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct regarding an administrative warning.
Several were applications for medical jobs or licenses. In at least three instances, Garcia lied while answering questions about professional conduct:
» Have you ever been disciplined by a hospital staff, internship or residency program? Garcia checked “no.”
» Has any medical license been denied or revoked? Garcia answered “no.”
» On one application for a license, Garcia wrote that he was a resident at Creighton University and marked that he didn’t complete the program. The reason? “Left due to illness/Migraines,” he wrote. (Garcia was fired because of multiple unprofessional instances, the last being that he tried to sabotage a fellow resident who was taking an important exam.)
When he was challenged about the claims on his application, Garcia often would become forthright. He would fess up and explain that he was fired from residency programs at Creighton, Bassett-St. Elizabeth and Louisiana State University.
In a letter to a Chicago doctor, Garcia asked for help to apply to for a medical license in Kentucky.
“Unfortunately I do not have very many friends and colleagues that can help me fill out the Reference Form they require,” Garcia wrote on June 2, 2011.
But most eye-opening were the many cryptic and handwritten notes in Garcia’s familiar fourth-grader scrawl (and spelling).
The scratchings were somewhat meticulous but at the same time, random and disjointed — to-do lists of sorts, with many items crossed out. It seemed Garcia was trying to get his affairs in order with mentions of selling his cars, refinancing his mortgage and possibly canceling insurance policies.
One page starts as a grocery list: “Brocholi (sic), Butter, Shrimp Scampi, Steak- Rib Eye.”
Then the list jumps to strange items: “common shoes, Sears Black, Disposable” and “Band Aids on tips of fingers (Door Bell), (Black Gloves).”
Another note references odd actions: “Tie knees. Tie Arms to sides. Blindfold - Teeshirt Torso.”
Yet another contains a reminder to call the Omaha Police Department on July 1, 2013. It was unclear why.
He also listed his penchant for Shrek movies — listed three times on various notes.
Many writings referenced a fake driver’s license and a plot to steal someone’s identity: “Apply or get a credit card in someone else’s name.”
Motta questioned the relevance of the notes, which he sarcastically called “this devastating list of horrible things.”
Motta asked Davis if he found evidence that Garcia had obtained any fake driver’s licenses, or if police had investigated identity theft crimes.
No, Davis responded.
“You didn’t find any of those things in real life?” Motta asked.
Some of the documents, Motta argued, showed that Garcia told the truth.
“He was actually pretty honest, in the affidavit; didn’t it appear that way?” Motta asked, referencing when Garcia admitted his residency troubles.
About a dozen handwritten notes found in an LSU bag in Garcia’s Mercedes Benz by Omaha police forensic technician Amanda Miller referenced apparent plans to rent a boat, buy fishing gear to “look like a Fisherman” and travel to New Orleans, Canada or the Gulf of Mexico.
He planned exactly what would be in his hands.
In his right hand? A “hidden” gun.
His left? His phone, passport and other documents. And “Poison (Hidden).”
Also in the bag: a letter to his parents Estella and Frederick in Walnut, California, dated July 13, 2013 — two days before Garcia was arrested.
“Please hold these documents in case of an Emergency.
During much of the testimony and lawyer bantering Wednesday, Garcia wrote in tiny print on the top half of a piece of paper.
At the end of the day, he folded up the paper and held it in his right hand.
He looked back to the gallery.
His parents weren’t there.
They had attended the first five days. They haven’t been back for nearly two weeks.
Trial day 11 - In Anthony Garcia's home, detectives find evidence of a man trying to make his old life disappear
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 19, 2016
Anthony Garcia’s split-level home was spartan.
So sparse, so spare, that photos of the home scream of a man in transition, perhaps a permanent one.
Drawers were left open and empty. Closets, clean and clear. Pantry shelves were bare. A wet-dry vacuum sat alone in the dining room. In the master bedroom: a blue air mattress on the floor, no sheets, no blankets.
As Omaha Police Detectives Ryan Davis and Nick Herfordt combed the home after Garcia’s arrest in July 2013, they saw signs of a man who had put his affairs in order.
On a living-room table were eight stacks of paper. The important documents of Garcia’s life.
The deed for the house that Garcia was about to lose to foreclosure. The title to the Mercedes SUV that Garcia had driven on Interstate 57 to southern Illinois, where he was arrested.
Garcia’s birth certificate. His house insurance policy. His medical license from Illinois — the only lasting one he ever obtained after his firing from Creighton University Medical Center in 2001.
All piled in perfect formation on the marble-tile tabletop.
And then the detectives sniffed something amiss. Something pungent, in the kitchen.
“It was nauseating,” Davis said.
A black garbage bag had been plopped into water in the kitchen sink. Some kind of chemical had been poured inside the bag.
After photographing it, detectives opened up the bag.
Inside, they found what authorities would later classify as the reasons for Garcia’s revenge. The poor reviews he got from Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, his former supervisor at Creighton. His June 26, 2001, termination letter with the signatures of Dr. William Hunter and Dr. Roger Brumback — the two Creighton pathologists prosecutors say he targeted.
And this: a yellow piece of legal paper with Garcia’s characteristic chicken scratch.
On it, a plan. Go to the home of another Anthony Garcia in suburban Indianapolis. “Arrive about 10:30 a.m. (when no one is around),” the note said. “Steal pertinent mail from mailbox. Where they shop. Super market, mall, movies ... And shop with their stolen info/credit cards/ATM cards only at those places ... Take out loans, credit cards, ect (sic) with their info ... Follow him to work, ect (sic).”
What’s clear from the red-streaked, chemical-smeared plan is this: Garcia hoped any trace of his former life would disappear. One way or the other.
Day 11 of Garcia’s trial ventured from the naturally faded receipts Garcia kept from March 2008 — when Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57 were killed — to the chemically altered documents left behind in his Terre Haute home.
Tuesday’s testimony — prosecutors have one more witness today before the defense begins presenting its case — proved the adage: Big cases are built with little things.
Little things like:
» Receipts and bank records that showed an empty day on Garcia’s March 13, 2008, calendar — the same day that Thomas and Sherman were killed at the Hunters’ Dundee home.
» Neighbors’ descriptions of a suspicious olive-skinned man and his silver CRV that day near the Hunters’ home.
» Parts of a gun — a spring, three inches long, and retaining loop, smaller than a dime — found at the home of Dr. Roger and Mary Brumback in May 2013.
» The frame of a broken gun found near an Illinois highway 580 miles from the Brumbacks’ residence and 16 miles from Garcia’s home in August 2013.
» An empty gun box found in Garcia’s home, with the same serial number as the frame found near the highway.
» Internet searches on Garcia’s phone for the address of Dr. Brumback on the same May 2013 day that prosecutors believe the Brumbacks were killed.
» Trace evidence of skin cells on the door handle of Bewtra’s home, which prosecutors allege Garcia tried to break into.
» A wayward comment Garcia made to a stripper, suggesting that he was a bad boy because he had killed an “old woman and a young boy.”
Even as evidence mounted, Garcia was at his most active Tuesday.
In the morning, he laughed and nodded as his attorney, Robert Motta Jr., poked away at prosecutors’ contention that his otherwise busy calendar was empty on a critical day: March 13, 2008.
Omaha police found a treasure trove of potential evidence when a team went to search the Walnut, California, home of Frederick and Estella Garcia.
In the garage was a duffel bag and stacks of financial records, store receipts and ATM slips that Anthony Garcia had diligently kept.
Omaha Police Detective Doug Herout sifted through the bundles of receipts and bank records and found that Garcia had multiple expenditures on most days in March.
On March 12, 2008, he withdrew $300 from his Shreveport, Louisiana, bank. And he made a $6.99 purchase at a Pep Boys auto parts store near Shreveport.
The purchase: A “smoke” shade to cover a license plate.
The purpose: “It makes it difficult to read the plate,” Herout said.
Prosecutor Brenda Beadle suggested that Garcia did so to conceal his license plate in Omaha. He also wanted to conceal his movements, Beadle said.
So, she said, he withdrew bundles of cash.
She also pointed to what she described as another curious purchase: Garcia’s March 17, 2008, trip to a Honda dealer in Shreveport to purchase a new set of floor mats.
Beadle: “Say they get some thing on their floor mat — oh I don’t know, blood — might they need new floor mats?”
Motta left little unchallenged. He said Garcia’s purchases of floor mats, a fuel cap and a tire show nothing more than “car maintenance.”
He pointed to Garcia’s 2008 date book, which had a doctor’s appointment listed on March 13, 2008. (Prosecutors say that doctor lives in California and there’s no evidence of an appointment.)
Motta noted that Garcia’s receipts showed no activity on five other days in March, in addition to March 13.
Motta made a rare acknowledgment — that credit-card receipts put Garcia in Omaha on May 12, 2013, the day prosecutors say the Brumbacks died.
“But nothing puts him in Omaha on March 13, 2008,” Motta said.
Motta also noted that Garcia had withdrawn cash, sometimes $300, on several other days in March: the 1st, 4th, 14th, 24th, 27th.
Motta offered a reason: Garcia was a casino connoisseur. His bank records show several trips to casinos in the Shreveport area.
“What do you need to gamble?” Motta asked Herout. “Chips. And you get chips with cash, right?”
At that, Garcia lowered his chin to his chest and chuckled — the first time he has shown any emotion in the trial.
Motta offered another reason for all the cash.
“My client likes to go to strip clubs,” Motta said.
Garcia didn’t laugh at that one. But that didn’t stop the defense’s demonstrativeness.
“My wife is here and unfortunately, I have to admit, I have been to strip clubs,” Motta Jr. said. “It’s no secret that (strip-club) ATMs charge a premium to withdraw cash.”
Hence Garcia’s withdrawals from his bank before he went, Motta said.
From her front-row perch, Alison Motta smiled and shook her head. Alison Motta, who made her first appearance in the courtroom Monday, spent most of Tuesday frantically leaning over a courtroom railing, passing notes, legal rulings and advice to her husband.
At one point, Alison Motta muttered an objection that Jeremy Jorgenson, another of Garcia’s attorneys, repeated verbatim.
At another point, Judge Gary Randall shushed her. Randall barred Alison Motta from sitting at the defense table or having a speaking role in the case after out-of-court comments she made, pretrial.
“Counsel, you’re going to need to wait for a break,” Randall called out to her and her husband. “This is distracting.”
Earlier, Jorgenson had tried to counter prosecutors’ contention that Garcia was fueled by his festering job frustration.
In addition to the searches of the Brumbacks’ and Bewtras’ addresses, Jorgenson noted that Garcia’s phone and digital tablet showed that he had job leads.
He pointed out that in the days immediately before May 12, 2013, Garcia had applied online for jobs at the American Society of Microbiology and at Chicago’s Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science.
“It’s true that there was not only Dr. Garcia’s interest in employment, but employers showing interest back?” Jorgenson asked Herfordt.
“Yes,” the detective said.
Jorgenson also suggested that the online searches for the names of Brumback and his colleague related to getting references for his job applications.
“You have to have names and references, you have to reach out and get reference letters, etc., etc., etc.,” Jorgenson said.
Tuesday’s etceteras weren’t good for Garcia.
Prosecutors closed the day with the walk-through of Garcia’s Terre Haute home.
Detectives found one other note, under the living-room table that held all of his life documents.
Scratched out in what appears to be Garcia’s elementary-school scrawl is an ode of sorts, similar to lines from a 2012 Liam Neeson movie, “The Grey.”
“Into the fight we go,” the note said.
As Davis detailed that and the other writings Garcia left behind in his home, some jurors scribbled furiously. Others not at all.
Then there was Garcia.
The 43-year-old defendant tilted his head back and to the right and closed his eyes for Davis’ testimony.
But this time — unlike the other times that the defendant has nodded off only to snap awake — Garcia’s head didn’t bob.
Instead, he swiveled in his chair, back and forth, back and forth, his eyes still closed.
He wasn’t asleep.
He just wasn’t looking.
Trial day 10 - FBI agents scrambled to arrest Anthony Garcia after tracking him to hotel
By Alia Conley and Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writers
October 18, 2016
Anthony Garcia briefly eluded FBI agents who were monitoring him in 2013 simply because he woke up earlier than they did.
On the evening of July 14, two agents from Omaha and three from Springfield, Illinois, congregated at a hotel across the street from where Garcia was staying in Salem, Illinois. The agents went over plans to follow and potentially arrest him the next day, and they headed to bed about 1 a.m.
Special agent Kevin Hytrek told everyone to get some sleep.
“I was more concerned about the next day, being up all day and into the night,” he testified Monday during Garcia’s quadruple murder trial. He told them, “Be ready to start driving in the morning.”
He awoke three minutes before his 5 a.m. alarm to check on Garcia. When he looked out the window, he saw that Garcia’s SUV was gone.
The scramble to find Garcia that July 2013 morning was more dramatic than Hytrek let on in his testimony.
Hytrek’s partner, Jonathan Robitaille, had testified in earlier hearings to a frenzied situation:
Authorities were able to “ping” Garcia’s phone every 30 minutes for his GPS location because of a search warrant.
The first ping that morning registered to the hotel parking lot. As the agents waited for the next ping, they zoomed south on Interstate 57 at speeds of 100 mph, frantically looking for Garcia’s SUV.
Garcia’s next ping? Thirty minutes behind them. They had passed Garcia.
Hytrek turned around, Robitaille spotted Garcia’s SUV, and the two tailed it until state troopers made an arrest near Jonesboro, Illinois, near the state line.
Asked where he was headed, Garcia said New Orleans.
Investigators said they believed that Garcia was headed to Louisiana State University to harm people there.
Garcia was fired from a residency program at LSU on Feb. 26, 2008 — 17 days before Thomas and Sherman were found dead.
But because of a judge’s order, jurors don’t know where Garcia might have been headed or what additional items authorities found in Garcia’s vehicle.
Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois testified Friday that investigators recovered a black iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy tablet from inside Garcia’s SUV.
Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall barred Mois from telling jurors what else police found inside the SUV: a crowbar, a sledgehammer, an unloaded .45 caliber handgun, a package of .45 caliber bullets. And an LSU lab coat from his days in Shreveport, Louisiana.
At the defense’s request, Randall didn’t allow jurors to hear testimony about the SUV’s contents or Garcia’s comments to the troopers.
Judges sometimes won’t allow testimony about evidence if it concerns uncharged crimes. Garcia has not been charged with any crime involving LSU.
Garcia’s LSU connection was apparent on the silver Honda CRV that he used to own — evidence photos displayed Monday showed a bright blue bumper sticker that said “LSU Health Sciences Center.”
Teresa Negron, a retired Omaha police sergeant, led the task force team that went to Garcia’s childhood home in Walnut, California, to execute search warrants on the home and the Honda CRV that his parents by then possessed. The CRV is similar in appearance to a vehicle spotted outside the Hunters’ home in 2008, when Thomas Hunter and Sherman were killed.
Garcia’s mother, Estella Garcia, assisted officers by driving the Honda CRV — now with California plates — to a secure facility in California so police could examine it.
Authorities took a box of papers from the Garcia home back to Omaha. Among them were ATM withdrawal receipts on March 12 and March 14, 2008, for $300 each. Prosecutors think Garcia withdrew a large amount of cash to use when he traveled to Omaha to commit the March 13, 2008, slayings of Sherman and Thomas Hunter.
At one point Monday, the Garcia trial invoked another child death: The 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant who was killed in her Boulder, Colorado, home.
Garcia’s attorney, Robert Motta Sr., said the defense hired a nationally known coroner, Dr. Werner Spitz, to testify about the timing of the Brumbacks’ deaths. Spitz was expected to give his opinion that the Brumbacks were killed later than when prosecutors say they were.
However, Spitz said in a couple of recent CBS reports that he thinks JonBenet was killed by her then-9-year-old brother, perhaps by hitting her in the head with a flashlight. JonBenet’s brother, Burke Ramsey, is suing Spitz and others for $150 million. As a result, Spitz’s attorney won’t allow him to testify in the Garcia trial.
To try to salvage Spitz’s appearance, Motta Sr. asked Randall to order prosecutors to not mention Spitz’s involvement in the JonBenet Ramsey case.
Randall refused to limit prosecutors. He said any opinions that Spitz has given are fair game.
“The other problem we have, Your Honor, is his attorney will not let him testify,” Motta Sr. said.
“Too bad,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said.
Randall: “I don’t know how I can address that issue.”
Monday’s testimony also included the account of an Indiana truck driver who found a piece of the gun that authorities believe was used to shoot Dr. Roger Brumback. Like so much in this case, the discovery had its unusual elements.
Gary Gooding, in his 18-wheeler transporting goods for the United Parcel Service, often stopped at a favorite patch of road on an entrance ramp to eastbound I-70.
Gooding wasn’t driving on Aug. 2, 2013, but instead training an employee — something he has done only a handful of times in his 17 years with UPS, he testified Monday. Usually, he drove his route alone.
Gooding and the trainee stopped on that familiar entrance ramp, and Gooding got out of the passenger side. He stepped on the shoulder of the ramp and saw part of a gun in a gravel area near the grass.
He called 911 because it was “the right thing to do,” he testified Monday.
“It was a fluke,” Gooding said, explaining that if he would have been driving, he’d stand in front of his truck, not the opposite side. “If I wasn’t in the passenger seat, I never would have spotted that gun.”
The serial number on the gun matches a pistol that Garcia purchased in March 2013. Prosecutors say that handgun is the type of firearm that was used to kill Brumback in May 2013, about two months before Gooding’s discovery. The entrance ramp where Gooding found it? Ten miles west of Terre Haute, Indiana, where Garcia used to live.
During long and draining afternoon testimony, Officer Nick Herfordt explained how he extracted data from Garcia’s iPhone and tablet and analyzed his web browsing history.
Defense attorney Jeremy Jorgenson had filed a motion to suppress evidence from Garcia’s iCloud account because he said the data was subject to “manipulation, contamination or fault in transmission.”
Randall denied the motion.
Jorgenson objected dozens of times during Herfordt’s testimony. “It’s still overruled,” Randall repeated.
Cross-examination of Herfordt is set to continue today.
Herfordt testified that Garcia’s devices had been used to search for “Roger A Brumback,” “Chhanda Bewtra” and “Aruna Bewtra,” Chhanda’s daughter, on whitepages.com. Dr. Chhanda Bewtra was among Garcia’s supervisors at Creighton.
Driving directions to Omaha and the address for Bewtra’s home were searched on May 10, 2013. Her home alarm went off on May 12, signaling a possible break-in. Also that Sunday, a search was made on Garcia’s iPhone for the Brumbacks’ address at 2:57 p.m., less than an hour before prosecutors think the Brumbacks were killed.
Herfordt could search Garcia’s data for various terms, which is how he instantly found Roger Brumback’s name.
So, Herfordt tried another term.
“Based on the way the investigation was shaping up,” Herfordt testified, he searched Garcia’s iPhone’s data for “revenge.”
Google search results popped up from Feb. 23, 2013 — nearly three months after Indiana denied Garcia’s application for a medical license.
In the search bar, a variation of a line from Shakespeare:
“Shall I not revenge.”
Trial day 9 - Detective tells jurors how Anthony Garcia went from being a name on a file to the prime suspect
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 15, 2016
Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois had reached a dead end in identifying a probable serial killer.
So Mois told his sergeant that he was ready for an additional assignment, hoping for another breadcrumb that might lead him down a trail to the suspect.
He was given a binder of documents — one of dozens collected from the Creighton University Medical Center’s pathology department personnel records.
It was the residency files of Anthony Garcia.
One of the first items that Mois noted? Garcia’s termination letter, signed by Dr. Roger Brumback and Dr. William Hunter.
“After I reviewed the book, I thought it was very reasonable that it could be potential motives for those crimes,” he said Friday during day nine of testimony in Garcia’s quadruple-murder trial.
Roughly two weeks after the May 2013 killings of Roger and Mary Brumback, Mois had a viable suspect name. It would take nearly two more months of detective work to gather enough evidence to arrest Garcia.
In court, Mois laid out his exhaustive efforts to secure search warrants and issue subpoenas for the police investigation into Garcia.
Mois was part of a 21-member task force created by Police Chief Todd Schmaderer four days after the Brumbacks were found dead on May 14, 2013. Police suspected that there was a link among a double slaying at Hunter’s Dundee home in 2008, the killings of the Brumbacks and an attempted break-in at Dr. Chhanda Bewtra’s home the same weekend the Brumbacks were likely killed. The group was tasked with finding the person or people responsible.
The three doctors connected to the crimes — Hunter, Roger Brumback and Bewtra — had a Creighton University pathology department link, so numerous files were pulled and officers began to pore over them.
Receiving Garcia’s binder was seemingly arbitrary, but as Mois dug deeper into Garcia’s history and records, he discovered more and more breadcrumbs that led him to believe that Garcia could have been responsible:
» A silver 2000 Honda CRV was registered to him at his Shreveport, Louisiana, address from 2007 to 2009. A handful of neighbors testified that they saw a man with olive skin drive a silver Honda CRV with non-Nebraska plates in their Dundee neighborhood on March 13, 2008, when Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, were killed.
» AT&T phone records indicated that he received an incoming call at 5:18 p.m. on May 12, 2013. The closest cell tower? Atlantic, Iowa — about an hour east of Omaha. “It told us it was conceivable that Mr. Garcia was in Omaha that day,” Mois testified.
» His financial records from Regents Bank showed purchases in and around Omaha on the day that authorities believe the Brumbacks were killed. A 12:38 p.m. purchase of a case of Bud Light at a Council Bluffs Casey’s General Store. Lunch at Wingstop at 72nd and Pacific Streets at 2:28 p.m. — about a five-minute drive from the Bewtra residence, Mois testified.
» A Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol that Garcia purchased in March 2013 at the Gander Mountain in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“We felt we had a significant amount of information suggesting that Garcia was responsible for the crimes,” Mois testified.
The task force split into two teams. One went to Walnut, California, to secure the Honda CRV, which was in Garcia’s parents’ possession, while Mois’ team went to Terre Haute, planning to arrest Garcia.
About 10 officers flew to Indianapolis and headed to Garcia’s residence. A couple of FBI agents drove.
But authorities then learned by monitoring Garcia’s cellphone that he was near Jonesboro, Illinois. Mois contacted the FBI agents, who coordinated with Illinois State Police to arrest Garcia on July 14, 2013.
Police recovered a black iPhone and a Samsung tablet in Garcia’s car.
More than a year later, Mois was still stumped on one piece of evidence: the gun used to shoot Brumback.
He did a search on a national database for lost or stolen firearms to see whether other law enforcement agencies had run the serial number that belonged to the pistol that Garcia had purchased.
Kurt Callahan, then a deputy sheriff in Clark County, Illinois, had run the number. It matched the bottom part of a gun that was found on Aug. 2, 2013, on the shoulder of an entrance ramp to Interstate 57 — two miles from the Indiana state line and nine miles from Terre Haute.
Defense attorney Robert Motta Jr. hammered Mois during a three-hour cross examination on crime-scene and motive discrepancies.
Motta asked if there was any evidence to connect the gun magazine left at the Brumbacks’ home with the gun that Garcia owned. No, Mois said.
Motta became agitated at objections from prosecutor Brenda Beadle, but Mois continued his unwavering and polite testimony in a calm voice.
“Do you think it might have been helpful to interview (Garcia) to see if he had a legitimate reason to be in Omaha?” Motta asked, pressing Mois on why Garcia was not interviewed by police before his arrest but other persons of interest were. “That decision to interview that person is going to be case-to-case,” Mois said.
One of Motta’s last questions drew groans from courtroom attendees and wide eyes from the jury.
“Didn’t a bunch of you guys get medals from the mayor?” Motta asked. “If my client’s acquitted, are you going to have to give that medal back?”
Judge Gary Randall sustained Beadle’s objection.
In a courtroom pew was Claire Hunter, mother of 11-year-old Thomas.
“Oh, c’mon,” she said.
An illustration shown Friday depicted Mois’ theory of Roger Brumback’s likely position when he was shot in the right shoulder. Brumback is hunched over, opening the storm door and standing in front of the main front door.
The bullet comes from below, from someone on the porch or stairs. It exits Brumback’s body, rockets through the door and hits high on a hallway wall.
Following the state’s theory, Brumback was ambushed by gunfire as he opened his door. He hardly had time to react.
Hours before the Brumbacks were killed, at 12:57 p.m., someone had searched for “Roger A. Brumback” in Omaha on whitepages.com from an iPhone.
Prosecutors are expected to present evidence next week that it was Garcia’s iPhone — the same phone recovered in his car when he was arrested.
Other searches that prosecutors plan to connect to Garcia:
“Chhanda Bewtra,” from a desktop computer on April 30. And, on May 10, “Aruna Bewtra,” Bewtra’s then-33-year-old daughter.
“What better way to revenge a harm than to kill someone’s child?” Beadle asked, her two teenage daughters sitting directly behind her observing the trial.
“I would agree,” Mois said.
Trial day 8 - Ex-dancer says she told Garcia she liked 'bad boys,' and he responded by saying he killed 2 people
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 14, 2016
When Anthony Garcia walked into the room in Terre Haute, Indiana, the music would stop.
The emcee would lean into the microphone.
“Hey, everyone,” he’d bellow. “Let’s welcome Dr. Tony to the club.”
This wasn’t a meeting of the Greater Terre Haute Medical Society. Or the annual ball at Terre Haute Country Club.
It was Club Koyote — a strip club where Garcia made his rounds two to three times a week.
And it was that one-story, tan-clapboard building that produced the critical witness who connects Garcia to the 2008 killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57:
Cecilia Hoffmann, a former exotic dancer and current Red Lobster waitress.
In the most dramatic testimony of Garcia’s trial — one that ended with Garcia’s attorney shouting and Hoffmann in tears — the 26-year-old woman took the stand Thursday and told jurors that she had tried to distance herself from her best customer, “Dr. Tony,” by telling him that she only dated bad boys.
“He said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve killed people before,’” Hoffmann said. “I said, ‘Oh, please, you’ve never killed anybody.’”
The young woman looked down. She wrapped her long hair behind an ear.
“He said he had,” Hoffmann recounted. “I said, ‘All right, well, tell me about it.’”
“He goes, ‘Well, it was an old woman and a young boy.’”
The comment was so creepy, so off-kilter, that Hoffmann dropped it. She believed that Garcia was just being his usual odd self.
“At the time, I thought, ‘This is the reason I’m not talking to you (anymore),’” Hoffmann said. “‘Because even your jokes are creepy.’”
Authorities say it was no joke, it was a confession. And while several items point to Garcia being in Omaha on the May 2013 day that Roger and Mary Brumback were killed, Hoffmann may provide prosecutors their strongest connection to the killings of Thomas and Sherman.
Garcia’s defense attorneys were so concerned about her testimony that they asked for an extended lunch break to prepare for her cross-examination.
A thin woman with reddish brown hair, Hoffmann testified to her nine-month “relationship” with Garcia from 2012 to early 2013.
In court, the 43-year-old defendant, a former resident at the Creighton University Medical Center, has ventured from pensive to sleepy to prickly. Earlier this week he told a sheriff’s deputy that he had a cold. He then admonished the deputy after receiving just three tissues rather than the entire Kleenex box. “Do you know what a cold is?” Garcia snapped.
Hoffmann’s testimony painted a different picture of Garcia.
At the club, Hoffmann said, Garcia was gregarious. He flashed cash and flaunted his medical degree, telling everyone to call him “Dr. Tony.”
Everyone did — even the DJ during his impromptu announcements of Garcia’s arrival, she said.
Dr. Tony told anyone who would listen of his work at an Illinois prison, just across the border from Terre Haute. He was outgoing and engaging — the life of the strip club, Hoffmann said.
“He was always laughing,” she testified. “He was really funny. We would joke around a lot. He joked around with a lot of the girls.”
Even so, Hoffmann said, there was something strange about that larger-than-life persona. Most of her customers didn’t want anyone to know they were at a strip club. She said it would take months for her to find out, for example, that one of her regulars was a real-estate agent; another, a cop.
Not Dr. Tony.
“He liked to flaunt that he was a doctor,” Hoffmann said. “He wanted everyone to know that he was a doctor — that he had nice things, that he had a nice life.”
Prosecutor Brenda Beadle, who has noted that Garcia declared bankruptcy and his Terre Haute house was in foreclosure, asked: “Did you actually have proof he had a nice life?”
“I would assume that he did,” Hoffmann said. “He had a lot of money to spend on us.”
Hoffmann —who first went by the stage name Ryder, then Charity — admitted that she took advantage of that. A handful of times she texted Garcia, asking him to take her to her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden.
He would always oblige. She wasn’t interested in dating him, she said. She just wanted a free meal.
“That’s just the type of person I was then,” Hoffmann said, looking down. “I was obviously dancing. I was addicted to drugs. I drank a lot. It was just not a very stable time of my life. Not proud of it.”
Later, Garcia attorney Robert Motta Jr. asked her: “Nobody wants to be a stripper, right?”
Hoffmann: “You’d be surprised.”
Hoffmann said she didn’t enjoy the job, but some did. In addition to their looks, Hoffmann said, she and her fellow dancers sold attention and affection, often competing to land big spenders like Garcia.
Garcia would drop $100 a night at the club — drinking heavily, buying Hoffmann drinks and paying for private dances in a VIP area.
“As soon as he would come in I would leave whatever I was doing,” she said. “He would always give me compliments — how pretty I was — which would boost my self-esteem. He was actually very nice.”
That said, aspects of Garcia gave her pause.
“There was definitely something about him that you could just tell was off,” she said. “Just this look in his eye or this face behind his smile.”
At times, Hoffmann said, Garcia was bizarre. Once he got down on one knee and proposed to her, with an “invisible ring.” The DJ called out: “Congratulations, Ryder and Tony, on your engagement,” she said.
Later, he told Hoffmann that he had a dream that she had his baby. She politely laughed. Then Garcia pounded the dream story into the ground, mentioning it every time he came to the club for a few weeks, she said. “It definitely started getting creepy.”
Then there was the alleged confession. One night, as Hoffmann took a smoke break outside the club, Garcia joined her.
Garcia had been pressing Hoffmann to date him. He had tried to kiss her after one of their Olive Garden dinners. She fended him off by telling him “I don’t feel like we’re ready yet.”
Hoffmann said she knew it was time to break away from Garcia. But she had to be gentle.
“Regulars, they start to wear themselves out,” Hoffmann said. “You’ve got to let them go. Let another dancer take over.”
So, “I told him, ‘You’re too good for me. You’re a good guy. You’re a doctor. I’m a bad girl. I like bad boys.’”
“He said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve killed people before.’”
When she doubted him, he offered up that it was “an old woman and a young boy.”
Hoffmann cast Garcia’s comment as just another weird non sequitur in their joking jabber.
So she went along with it.
She asked Garcia: “Why did you do it?”
“He said, ‘They deserved it — well, maybe they didn’t deserve it, but I had to, and I feel bad.’”
As she testified, Garcia rarely looked Hoffmann’s way. His attorneys, on the other hand, were locked on Hoffmann from the minute she stepped into the courtroom.
Attorney Jeremy Jorgenson whipped around as she sat in the gallery before the morning session started. He leaned across the railing separating the front of the courtroom from the gallery.
“Is that Cecilia?” he asked. A private detective nodded.
After prosecutors questioned Hoffmann, Motta Jr. and Jorgenson asked for a recess to prepare their own questions.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine objected. “So let me get this straight,” he said, “we’re going to take a recess because they’re not ready?”
Judge Gary Randall granted the delay.
After a lunch break of an hour and 45 minutes, Garcia’s defense team tried to chip away at Hoffmann. Motta Jr. pointed out that her former business involves “deception” — lying by feigning interest in customers. She acknowledged that she drank a lot and used drugs. He noted that she had been charged with possessing methamphetamine and suggested that she got sober only because of a court order.
He then turned to an interview of Hoffmann conducted by his law firm’s private detective.
Hoffmann said she was caught off guard at her home in Terre Haute. In 2015 a man came to her door, flashed a badge and started asking questions about the comments that she said Garcia made.
“I can’t stand by anything I said or did in that time of my life,” she told the private detective. “Maybe I misheard what (Garcia) said. I thought he said something, but now I just think it’s too long and I wasn’t in the right state of mind to hear what he said.”
Prosecutor Beadle said Hoffmann made those comments only after the private detective manipulated her. In fiery questioning, Beadle pointed out that the detective had told Hoffmann that prosecutors had a lot of witnesses and that Hoffmann wouldn’t be needed.
Hoffmann said she never recanted her report of what Garcia said.
“I thought he was giving me an out,” she said. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this.”
“He put a lot of words in your mouth, didn’t he?” Beadle said.
“Exactly,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann said the private detective — who stands more than 6-foot-6 — had intimidated her and made her feel uncomfortable.
How did you feel? Beadle asked.
“I was terrified,” she said.
At that, Motta marched up to Hoffmann. His voice built into a shout so loud that his co-counsel later questioned whether Motta’s “screaming” could be heard in the hallway.
“You mean to tell me you’re terrified of this man,” Motta said, thumbing in the direction of his private detective. “But you’re NOT SCARED OF SOME MAN AT A STRIP CLUB SAYING HE KILLED SOMEONE? THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT THIS JURY TO BELIEVE?”
Beadle shot out of her seat.
“Objection!” she hollered. “He doesn’t get to yell at my witness.”
Teary-eyed, Hoffmann quietly answered Motta’s question.
“I’m saying when a pervert in a strip club told me a joke, it didn’t scare me,” she said.
At that, Hoffmann took a tissue and dabbed at her mascara.
Judge Randall admonished Motta to sit down. Several jurors squirmed. One juror, a young woman, shot a cold stare at the defense table.
After Motta’s outburst, the case went from furious to tedious.
Through credit cards and phone records, prosecutors traced Garcia’s movements from Indiana to Omaha and back to Indiana on the weekend that the Brumbacks were killed. A surveillance video showed him at a Casey’s General Store in Council Bluffs. Prosecutors also presented evidence of his earlier purchase of a 9 mm gun — a gun that prosecutors allege Garcia used in the Brumbacks’ deaths.
All of it paled in comparison to Hoffmann’s testimony.
Motta later said that he didn’t feel bad about making the woman cry. The Chicagoan previously has said he would take a scorched-earth strategy to this case because he doesn’t usually practice here. “This is a life-or-death case,” he told reporters, “and she’s saying things I don’t necessarily believe are true.”
Hoffmann insisted that she was telling the truth. She said she didn’t report Garcia’s comments to authorities at the time because she thought they were a joke and the comments were so random. Plus, her life was a mess.
She since has sobered up, kicking her addiction to alcohol, prescription pills and meth. She has a job and two children. She said she’s been contacted by reporters so much that she had to change her phone number. In short, she said, she had no reason to concoct this confession.
With the benefit of time and sobriety, Hoffmann said, she has looked back on that strange exchange several times.
There was one thing she couldn’t get past. If he was full of bluster, she said, Garcia could have said he had killed some bad guys or killed someone in self-defense.
Instead, she said, he told her he killed an “old woman and a young boy.”
Her response to him that night:
“That sounds like the two most innocent people in the world.”
Trial day 7 - After dead woman’s face was disfigured, attempt to sabotage medical resident was last straw for Garcia at Creighton, witness says
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 12, 2016
A potential public relations disaster that embarrassed the Creighton University pathology department and infuriated the family of a deceased woman and a funeral home prompted officials to suggest to Anthony Garcia that he transfer to another residency program.
Garcia’s actions — or inaction — led to the disfigurement of a dead woman’s face before her funeral.
The first-year Creighton resident had correctly completed an autopsy of the woman in February 2001, Dr. William Hunter testified Wednesday. As a presiding doctor left, Garcia and an assistant were entrusted to return the body to the refrigeration chamber.
The woman weighed more than 350 pounds. So Garcia helped the assistant by rolling the woman’s body from the operating room table to the gurney, ending facedown.
“Normally, you would have thought that a person would have some decent common sense that you would just flip the body back over,” Hunter testified. “We pay the utmost respect to bodies.”
The woman’s body remained prone overnight, causing “discoloration of the face” and “fluid leakage on the shroud,” according to a letter sent to department Chairman Dr. Roger Brumback from the autopsy service director.
A funeral home director told the family that it was the department’s fault and said he would “never let an unqualified person touch the body if he were in charge,” according to an email.
Hunter, the residency program director, said he had never heard of a pathologist leaving a body facedown. He suggested that it was common knowledge to move bodies with sheets if they were cumbersome.
One of Garcia’s attorneys, Bob Motta Jr., asked Hunter whether a young pathologist would know that.
As Hunter’s wife nodded her head in the courtroom, Hunter responded, “I would hope so.”
The incident detailed on the seventh day of Garcia’s quadruple-murder trial was yet another in a long line of concerns that marred his first year of residency, including complaints by professors about his attitude and competency. Garcia is accused of killing Hunter’s 11-year-old son, Thomas, and Shirlee Sherman in 2008 and Brumback and his wife, Mary, in 2013.
Back in 2001, after the autopsy incident, Hunter decided to give Garcia a second chance — but not at Creighton. He told Garcia days after the autopsy that his contract wouldn’t be renewed but that he would help Garcia find a spot in another residency program. “Our idea was that, maybe in a different environment, he would do much better,” Hunter said.
On March 14, Garcia met with Hunter again and said he wanted to stay at Creighton. Hunter relented and agreed to put Garcia “under review,” meaning Garcia had to achieve certain goals.
In April, Garcia performed “satisfactorily,” according to Hunter’s memos.
But the “straw that broke the back,” Hunter testified, was when Garcia tried to sabotage a chief resident who was taking a “high-stakes exam” on May 17.
Hunter said Garcia called the chief resident’s wife that day, explaining that he was urgently needed in the pathology department for a conference — and if he didn’t show he would be fired.
The wife panicked — and not wanting to disrupt her husband — called Karen Fisher, an official at Creighton, to double-check. Hunter informed Fisher that the call was unfounded and that the chief resident had an approved absence in order to take the test.
A faculty assistant overheard Garcia and another resident talk about the phone call to the wife and reported it to Hunter.
Hunter and Brumback gave Garcia and the other resident a termination letter on May 22, with the option to resign. Garcia immediately went to file an appeal, denying his role and citing a “precedence of abuse against residents” from the department.
“Then we didn’t hear anything from him after that,” Hunter testified.
An appeals committee upheld the firing.
But Hunter still wanted to help his former resident.
He sent a generic letter to Garcia that supported his applications to other residency programs. “Dr. Garcia is a hard worker and is relocating for personal reasons,” Hunter wrote on July 3, 2001.
Garcia was accepted into the residency program at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System that August.
He completed his first year, left after his second year, citing medical problems, and had difficulty from then on securing employment.
Prosecutors have said that Garcia bore a grudge against professors in the Creighton pathology department, but Motta argued that Hunter and Garcia left on amicable terms because of Hunter’s helpful letter.
“(Garcia) ended up walking to another residency. ... I think it’s fair to say that that was in large part due to your gracious nature in writing that letter?” Motta asked.
“It might be,” Hunter answered.
Hunter’s final testimony in the case — he also spoke to jurors on the first day of the trial about discovering his son’s dead body — lasted the entire morning and much of Wednesday afternoon.
Jurors also heard testimony from:
» Anita Kablinger, the psychiatry residency program director at Louisiana State University, hired Garcia as one of eight residents in July 2007. In February 2008, Kablinger fired Garcia for falsifying a Louisiana medical license application. Garcia had said he had not been the subject of probation or disciplinary action — which wasn’t true, given what happened at Creighton.
Garcia, who is Latino, said the Creighton program was racist against him. He claimed that he had been poorly treated and that he wasn’t being dishonest, Kablinger testified. “I feel bad you have to lose a resident,” Garcia said, according to Kablinger’s scrawl on a notepad.
Seventeen days later, Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman were killed.
» Jill Jarreau, an administrator in the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, testified that Garcia had titled a 2000 silver Honda CRV at a Shreveport office in June 2007. He was issued a reddish-orange and yellow-colored license plate featuring a pelican.
Neighbors of the Hunters testified last week that they saw a man in a silver Honda CRV park near the Hunter home on the day of Thomas’ and Sherman’s slayings. One said she noticed “pastel-colored” plates.
» Illinois State Trooper Roger Goins testified about the July 14, 2013, arrest of Garcia on an entrance ramp of Interstate 57. Goins said FBI agents had called him and a co-worker in another cruiser and told them to make a “felony traffic stop” on a black Mercedes SUV. According to a cruiser video, Garcia quickly surrendered.
» Robert Morrison, owner of the two Omaha Wingstop restaurants, said Omaha police officers subpoenaed a receipt from 2:26 p.m. on May 12, 2013, for a $7.69 credit-card charge at the 72nd and Pacific Streets location. Prosecutors say Garcia ate at Wingstop that afternoon and then killed the Brumbacks in their home soon after.
Wednesday’s final testimony muddied the state’s case and offered no physical evidence of Garcia at either crime scene.
Laura Casey, a senior forensic technician, examined the latent fingerprints taken from the Hunter and Brumback crime scenes. Four prints from the Hunter home and one from the Brumback home could not be identified.
Police asked Casey to compare the unknown prints from the Hunter house to 27 people — including Garcia — and the print from the Brumback home to one person of interest — Garcia.
The results? No match.
Trial day 6 - Prosecutors in Anthony Garcia case turn to motive: grudge from 2001 firing from Creighton med center
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 11, 2016
Dr. Chhanda Bewtra spoke with the spunkiness of a newly retired woman, the smarts of a lifelong teacher, the certainty of a physician.
Asked to evaluate Anthony Garcia — a former resident she was in charge of at Creighton University Medical Center — Bewtra wasted no words.
Rude. Adversarial. Disruptive. Belligerent. Arrogant. Lazy. Combative. Passive-aggressive. Mocking. Mean-spirited.
He once suggested that Bewtra had concocted her breast-cancer diagnosis.
“He said it was a hoax — that I was just making it up as an excuse not to work,” she testified Tuesday. “He was absolutely the worst resident in my 40 years of teaching.”
A prosecutor asked Bewtra to point out Garcia in court. She strained.
The short woman — with dark hair virtually devoid of gray — stood up in her green dress. She craned her neck past a monitor and nodded her head toward the defendant, who was sitting at the end of his four-person defense table.
“I recognize him,” she said. “He lost a lot of weight and he wears glasses, but I recognize him.”
Tuesday — Day 6 of the Anthony Garcia trial — wasn’t a good look for Garcia.
In week one, prosecutors documented the gruesome knife slayings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, in March 2008; the shooting and stabbing of Dr. Roger Brumback, 65, and the stabbing of Mary Brumback, 65, in May 2013. Prosecutors also accuse Garcia of trying to break into Bewtra’s house.
As the trial spilled into week two Tuesday, prosecutors turned jurors’ attention to motive: the festering grudge that they say Garcia harbored over his 2001 firing from Creighton’s pathology department.
To that end, Kleine brought back the man who opened the state’s case — Dr. William “Bill” Hunter, Bewtra’s colleague and the former head of the residency program at Creighton. Hunter already had testified to his gruesome discovery of Thomas and Sherman after arriving home from the pathology department on March 13, 2008.
Hunter testified Tuesday to his knowledge of Garcia as a first-year resident in 2000 and 2001. Hunter testified that he took over as director of the pathology residency program in January 2001. At that point, he said, the program had about 8 to 10 residents.
One who stood out: Garcia. And not because he was excelling.
As director, Hunter had to evaluate Garcia and the other residents every six months. That means Hunter had to rely on the teaching doctors who were in charge of the residents. Immediately, the reviews were not good.
One warning sign: Hunter said only three of the six doctors had submitted reviews of Garcia. When Hunter pressed the other three on why they hadn’t, they told Hunter they “were concerned” about Garcia “and didn’t want to put anything in writing.”
Bewtra, on the other hand, wasn’t bashful.
Then in charge of surgical pathology, Bewtra gave Garcia several “unacceptable” ratings. His worst: Attitude.
“Very passive/aggressive,” she wrote. “Dr. Garcia showed marked lack of initiative and interest. He took no responsibility for his cases. His knowledge ... is very poor. When specifically asked to read up on certain topics and report back, he never did.”
In a Feb. 15, 2001, email to Hunter, Bewtra wrote that Garcia “was extremely unpleasant in his behavior” during a conference on tumors.
“Without any reason or provocation, he began mouthing off, calling me names and in spite of repeated efforts of the chief resident ... continued in his belligerent tirade,” she wrote. “He should be put on probation. If this continues, his contract should be terminated.”
That same day, Garcia sent a letter to Hunter about Bewtra.
“Bewtra hound(s) you by saying ‘you should know this’ and ‘why don’t you know,’ ” he wrote. “Her purpose is to put you down and have you submit to her power. She uses her position to verbally abuse the residents she works with.”
Garcia then doubled down a day later.
In an email to his chief resident, Garcia wrote: “I would like you to inform Bewtra that she has insolent behavior and she has on many occasions humiliated, degraded and has insulted me. If she illegally defames my name again or abuses me again, I will sue her.”
The chief resident forwarded the email to Bewtra. Fed up, Bewtra forwarded Garcia’s email to Hunter, with a handwritten note.
“Bill ... how many more documentations do you need?” she wrote. “I think we have enough ‘good cause’ for immediate termination. ... He should have been on probation long ago.”
Bewtra testified that she was anything but abusive. She was a tough teacher who expected residents to know their stuff. However, she said, “I was very fair.”
And Garcia was failing, she said.
He was “arrogant when I asked him questions,” Bewtra said. “And then he would actually blame me for not knowing the answers. He would say I was deliberately humiliating him. So much so that I once asked him to tell me what you know and I will just ask that.”
Trial day 5 - On fifth day of Garcia trial, prosecutors trace Roger and Mary Brumback's final moments
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 8, 2016
They looked like the grandparents they were, trying to figure out this newfangled videochat software called FaceTime.
Heads tilted to the side, eyes not quite on the camera of the iPad, Mary Brumback spoke to her only daughter on Mother’s Day 2013. Roger Brumback was just to her right, peering through his glasses at the screen.
For an hour and 4 minutes they talked with their daughter, catching up on life and work and weather and Mother’s Day.
Calling from San Francisco, Audrey Brumback razzed her mom about giving unsolicited advice to Audrey’s husband.
Audrey said she knew the crack would get a laugh — “I’m hilarious,” she quipped — so she took a screen shot of it.
In the photo, Roger pulls away from his iPad, as if to give himself room to bellow. Mary, with her curly, wispy white hair, is beet red, midlaugh at her daughter’s zinger.
And there it was Friday, projected on an 80-inch screen in the courtroom.
The last moments, last laughs, of a couple who would be dead just an hour later, if the state’s timeline is to be believed.
On Friday — day five of Anthony Garcia’s trial — those final moments were traced through photographs, phone calls and memories of adult children who miss their parents dearly.
While the Brumbacks and their children were unwittingly sharing their last conversations, prosecutors allege, Garcia — a former resident in Brumback’s Creighton University Medical Center pathology department — was lurking. Garcia’s attorneys dispute that, saying any speculation about the timing of the Brumbacks’ deaths or Garcia’s involvement is simply guesswork.
“Eerily,” prosecutor Brenda Beadle said in opening statements, “while the Brumbacks are talking to their daughter for the last time, (Garcia) is sitting in a car in the parking lot, frustrated.”
The reason: Before targeting the Brumbacks, prosecutors allege, Garcia, a pathology resident who had been fired from the Creighton facility in 2001, had been thwarted in his attempt to break into the home of another Creighton pathologist, Dr. Chhanda Bewtra.
Bewtra’s husband, Dr. Againdra Bewtra, testified Friday that he, his wife and friends had gone to lunch on Mother’s Day.
Just after 2 p.m. their security company alerted them to a possible break-in as they were two minutes from their home near 84th and Pacific Streets. Bewtra said he raced home to find no burglar but the back door ajar — no more than 2 inches.
Bewtra said any burglar was perhaps thwarted by the sound of the alarm and a heavy recliner that Bewtra had pushed against the door.
The Bewtras didn’t think much of the alarm. Neither called police.
Then came Tuesday, May 14, 2013. The Bewtras, both doctors at Creighton, learned that their “very good friends, Roger and Mary, had been killed in their house.”
“I still didn’t think it was related,” Againdra Bewtra testified.
He was one of the few. Speculation soon surged in Omaha. The Brumbacks’ killings came five years after Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman were killed in the Dundee home of Dr. William Hunter, another Creighton pathologist.
“I was telling my students about the (alarm),” Againdra Bewtra said. “They all said ‘You have to report it.’”
On Thursday, May 16, he did. Omaha police swabbed the door for evidence. Prosecutors say DNA tests link the swabs to Garcia — although the defense says the results are not convincing.
Friday was less gruesome but no less gut-wrenching than the first four days of Garcia’s trial.
The first key witness: Owen Brumback, the younger of the couple’s two sons. An accountant who now works in real estate in Denver, Owen recalled how he used to call his mom every day at noon.
“I knew she was often home alone in the day,” he said, letting slip a smile. “I just wanted to keep her company. I liked talking to her.”
The way they kept in contact: the Brumbacks’ home phone.
Mary Brumback wasn’t much for cellphones — a fact not lost on those grieving her loss. While police say the intruder shot and killed Roger Brumback at the front door, one of Roger’s relatives has wondered whether Mary could have used a cellphone to summon police and perhaps save herself.
Owen Brumback said his mother carried only a flip phone, in her purse.
“I never heard of her ever using it,” he said.
One of her concessions to popular convention: the iPad. Early that morning, Owen had awakened with his 6-month-old daughter, Savannah. So he called Grandma and Grandpa on FaceTime and propped his daughter in front of the camera.
“I liked to show her off,” he said.
Just the weekend before, the Brumbacks had traveled to Denver for Savannah’s baptism. They stayed for three days, doting on their youngest grandchild.
On Mother’s Day, the FaceTime visit wouldn’t last long. Savannah was fussy, so Owen signed off.
Later that afternoon, Audrey FaceTimed in.
Sitting at their kitchen table, Mary had been reading a novel. Roger, the Sunday paper.
They propped the iPad between them.
Audrey Brumback, a child neurologist, testified that she loved talking to her parents. Audrey noted that long before he was a pathologist at Creighton University, Roger Brumback himself had been a child neurologist.
“It was really fun to just get to talk about child neurology with him,” she said.
Both Mary and Roger Brumback were accomplished. Mary had been a pharmacist before going to law school. As Roger ventured the country — working in child neurology and then pathology — Mary eventually became a family-practice lawyer in Norman, Oklahoma.
When Roger Brumback was hired at Creighton in 2000, she stopped practicing law so she could travel with her husband. A workhorse who spoke at colleges and seminars around the world, Roger wrote more than 14 books and was the editor of two academic journals.
Mary Brumback also was prolific. She wrote a book on weight control and fiber. And she wrote reams about her family, often with an eye for detail and a sly sense of humor.
In a journal entered into evidence Friday, Mary Brumback copiously chronicled her phone calls with her ailing mother, who was in an assisted living facility in Maryland.
Every day, Mary Brumback would call her mom. Every day, she’d jot down something about her mother’s mental state, her medical care, her cane.
“Found it under the bed,” Mary wrote one time. Another: “Found it under her pillow.”
Once, Mary reported that her mother “thinks she’s been wearing men’s clothes.”
Mary told her mother about the couple’s excitement over moving to West Virginia. Roger Brumback had taken an administrative post at a West Virginia medical school that would allow him to scale back his work hours. The couple had decided to downsize.
“She wants my piano,” Mary scribbled about her mother. “She could play. Needs music. Would thrill her.”
Mary didn’t stop telling her about the move, even though her mom didn’t seem to catch on.
“Told her (we) bought house,” Mary wrote April 23. “Moving end of June ... (mom) not paying attention.”
And then the scribblings ended. Mary’s last notes: May 11, 2013.
Both Brumback children said their parents were excited for their next adventure.
Under cross-examination, Garcia’s attorney, Robert Motta Jr., asked Owen Brumback if his dad told him that he was unhappy at Creighton.
“Had you heard that the environment at Creighton was toxic?” Motta asked.
Before Owen could fully answer, prosecutors objected, noting that the answer called for hearsay. Judge Gary Randall sustained the objection.
Motta vowed to tackle those issues next week. The trial, which is to resume Tuesday, is expected to shift to motive: prosecutors’ allegations that Garcia harbored a grudge over Brumback and Hunter firing him from Creighton in 2001.
“The county attorney and us have been playing pretty nice since the trial started,” Motta said outside court. “It’s about to get hairy. ... Next week’s going to be fireworks.”
Friday was simply heart-wrenching.
Between them, Audrey and Owen now have four children. None of the children ever got to know their grandparents. (The Brumbacks’ older son, Darryl, was not called to testify.)
With a wide smile, Audrey Brumback spoke of her mother’s penchant for pen and paper. Audrey said her mother would write her a letter every week, “a handwritten letter.”
Beadle: “Like a mailed letter?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “My husband and I would go to the mailbox and announce, ‘Oh, the Mary Brumback letter came today!’”
“I’d get one every week,” she said. “Fifty-two letters a year. From my mom.”
A pause. A wistful smile.
“It was awesome.”
Trial day 4 - As prosecution in Garcia case tries to establish when couple was killed, forensic expert says Mary Brumback fought for her life
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 7, 2016
Mary Brumback used her bare hands to fight against a knife-wielding attacker for as long as she could.
The 65-year-old woman’s arms and hands were cut more than 20 times:
Her left thumb hacked all the way through the joint, only attached by a tendon.
Two slashes on the top of her wrist — presumably from a knife that sliced into the skin and out the other side.
A deep 3-inch slit on the back of her right hand.
“These are not lethal injuries, but they can be seen in situations of a person attempting to ward off a weapon,” testified forensic pathologist Michelle Elieff, who performed the autopsy.
Brumback battled until she was killed by multiple stab wounds to the right side of her neck, Elieff concluded during the fourth day of testimony in Anthony Garcia’s quadruple murder trial.
Like the Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman slayings in March 2008, both Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, had their carotid arteries severed with a knife on the right side of their necks. They were killed in May 2013.
Mary Brumback suffered five cuts to her neck of varying depths that appeared as one wound measuring a few inches. She also had a gaping 4-inch slice from the nape of her neck to her earlobe, which came from several “complex” stabs that damaged her voice box and other blood vessels.
Roger Brumback was stabbed six times — two near his right earlobe, one on his upper neck and three lower stabs close together.
Claire Hunter did not attend the testimony about her son Thomas’ autopsy Wednesday, but she was in the courtroom Thursday. When she heard that the three stabs to Roger’s neck sliced his carotid artery, much like her son’s was, she nodded knowingly.
Unlike the others, Roger Brumback was shot — three times. A fatal wound came from a bullet that ripped through his abdomen, hitting his liver and a large blood vessel before lodging in his back.
He was also shot in his right shoulder and the back of his leg, and both of those bullets exited his body.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine asked Elieff if either the abdomen gunshot wound or the severed carotid artery could have been fatal itself.
“Yes,” Elieff said, adding that the gunshot wound was the “most significant.”
Kleine also asked Elieff if the discoloration and decomposition of the bodies would be consistent with the Brumbacks being killed on Sunday, May 12, 2013, two days before their bodies were discovered.
“Sure,” she said.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that the Brumbacks were killed on that Sunday — Mother’s Day — after they spoke to their daughter on a video call. Authorities have evidence that Garcia was in Omaha that day. Robert Motta Sr., one of Garcia’s lawyers, countered in his first cross-examination question:
“Would it also be consistent if they were killed at midnight on that day?”
“Sure,” Elieff also replied.
Motta also asked Elieff how she felt while performing the autopsy on Roger Brumback, whom she knew professionally.
“I knew him, I had worked with him,” she said in her afternoon-long testimony. “All individuals deserve respect and care in their autopsy, so that’s my feeling for every autopsy.”
One of Motta’s final questions was whether the autopsy results connected Garcia to the crimes.
Elieff explained, to the amusement of the jurors, that her job isn’t to investigate like characters do on television. She just performs the autopsy.
“So the answer is no?” Motta asked.
“Pretty much,” Elieff said.
The autopsy results followed a tedious morning detailing evidence collected from the Brumback crime scene. That included testimony on the trajectory of one of the bullets that prosecutors say struck Roger Brumback as he stood in the doorway of his west Omaha home.
Prosecutors say the same bullet that went through Brumback’s shoulder passed through the open front door and then struck a wall above a closet.
Todd Petrick of the Omaha police crime lab testified that he and other crime lab technicians used a probe with a laser to determine the bullet’s possible path. The probe was put through the hole in the door, with the laser then lined up with the damage to the wall.
The shortest testimony of the day came from Dr. Gary Hoff and lasted about 10 minutes.
Hoff, a professor at Des Moines University, had met Roger Brumback in 2012. Sometime in May 2013, Brumback emailed Hoff and offered to donate dozens of medical books.
They scheduled Monday, May 13, for Brumback to come to Des Moines, drop off the books and have lunch. Brumback even planned to bring his wife so she could go shopping, Hoff said.
The couple was supposed to arrive about 11 a.m.
“He didn’t come,” Hoff testified.
No phone call, text or email.
Three days later, Omaha police officers called Hoff.
Officers had found piles of books in the trunk of the Brumbacks’ vehicle parked in their garage.
Trial day 3 - Testimony shifts to grisly scene at Roger and Mary Brumback's home in third day of Anthony Garcia trial
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
Oct 5, 2016
It was a gorgeous May day, and Jason Peterson was running a bit behind.
The owner of Transfer 88 — he moves pianos and their 88 keys — backed into the driveway of Roger and Mary Brumback’s house at 11421 Shirley St.
He grabbed his four-wheel dolly and placed a ramp up to the front of the two-story white house with black shutters.
He hustled up to the front porch, where he found the storm door closed but the front door cracked open.
Such a sight is typical, Peterson said. A lot of people will crack their door in anticipation of the movers.
But no one answered at the Brumbacks’ house. Peterson knocked, called out hello, even ventured around to the backyard in case “someone was doing yard work.”
He returned to the front and opened the screen door.
As he peeked in, he noticed a shiny object on the floor.
A magazine from a handgun.
“I said, ‘Uh oh,’” Peterson testified, between chews of his gum. “‘Let’s back up off of here.’”
Peterson, his son and a nephew bolted to the driveway, where Peterson called 911. Omaha police arrived.
Peterson said he trailed a “lady officer” to the front door. She pushed open the door a bit more, then “immediately called for backup.”
“I’ve moved a lot of things in the course of moving a piano,” Peterson said. “But I’ve never had to move a gun clip. That just didn’t seem right.”
Had Peterson poked his head inside the house, he would have seen how wrong it was:
Just behind that cracked door, Roger Brumback was splayed face down, and his 6-foot-3, 200-pound body in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the shoulder and stomach and stabbed in the neck.
In an adjacent sitting room, Mary Brumback was face up, her arms spread, lying between a number of belongings that appeared to be packed and ready to move.
The Brumbacks were on their way to West Virginia, where they had decided to retire after Roger Brumback’s long tenure in the pathology department at Creighton University.
“They were ready to make this move that they were so excited about,” prosecutor Brenda Beadle said.
On Wednesday, day three of Anthony Garcia’s trial, prosecutors transitioned from the March 13, 2008, deaths of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman to the May 12, 2013, killings of the Brumbacks.
The parallels between the two sets of crimes — even the innocuous ones — were impossible to ignore:
» Both sets of killings took place on seasonable days. A warm, windy day in March 2008. A sun-splashed Mother’s Day in May 2013. Further, prosecutors say, both attacks occurred in the middle of the day — though the defense team questions how prosecutors know.
» The first paramedic to arrive at both scenes: Omaha Firefighter Jason Gohr. The first detective at both scenes: Omaha Police Officer Derek Mois.
» The chosen murder weapon: knives, presumably from inside the victims’ homes. All four victims — even Roger Brumback, who was shot — had knife wounds. All four basically bled out.
Prosecutors spent much of Wednesday detailing at least some of those wounds through the testimony of Dr. Michelle Elieff, a coroner’s physician.
On the 80- and 60-inch screens in Judge Gary Randall’s courtroom, jurors got high-definition views of:
» Eighteen cuts to Sherman’s neck. The wounds to the grandmother looked like the teeth of a zipper running up the right front of her neck. They generally grew wider as they went up the neck — half-inch scars to inch-wide punctures to the fatal plunge, a two-inch wide, C-shaped wound.
Sherman also had a bruise to her forehead, probably from a fall to the floor, Elieff said.
» Nearly 10 wounds to Thomas’ neck, including the severing of his jugular veins and carotid arteries on both sides.
Thomas also had bruises ringing his mouth and a swollen lower lip. Elieff called those “compression bruises” — consistent with the killer sneaking up from behind and muzzling Thomas’ mouth.
The photos fed into both prosecution and defense strategies.
Prosecutors used them to try to show that the killer was poking away at the victims’ necks, searching for the two key vessels of blood in the neck: the side-by-side carotid artery and jugular vein.
Who would know to search? A former pathology student like Garcia, prosecutors argue.
Meanwhile, the photos have gone without any defense protest at trial. Many defense teams will object to gratuitous photos of autopsies, and most judges will set limits on how many photos are admitted, so as not to inflame jurors any more than necessary.
However, Garcia’s defense team hasn’t objected.
The reason: Although the photos are disturbing, even disgusting, their client didn’t inflict these wounds, his lawyers say. No physical evidence connects him to the killings.
For his part, Garcia never gave more than a passing glance at the photos. He spent the entire day scribbling notes and rarely peering anywhere but down through his black-rimmed glasses at a set of reports.
Jurors and spectators saw all they could handle.
As prosecutor Don Kleine displayed a close-up of the zipperlike wounds on Sherman’s neck, Sherman’s brother Brad Waite winced. “Oh my God,” he muttered. He used his left hand to wipe tears from his right eye; his right hand to wipe tears from his left.
A juror in the back row pivoted her body toward an outside wall, occasionally looking at the screen over her shoulder. One young female juror buried her chin between her thumb and forefinger, then wrapped her hair partially over her face.
After about an hour of viewing the photos, a middle-aged juror wrote on her notepad: “Break please.”
Judge Randall recessed jurors for 10 minutes.
Things didn’t get much easier following the break. After several close-ups of Tom’s autopsy, prosecutors turned to graphic photos of what Omaha police found inside the Brumback house.
Roger Brumback was found, shot and stabbed, just inside his front door.
Under the state’s theory, he answered the door, then tried to prevent his attacker from entering. Mois testified that a bullet went through Brumback as he stood in front of the door, then went through a door and into a front-entry wall. (The defense mocked that theory, questioning how the bullet could travel that high or far.)
Startled by the commotion, Mary Brumback, who perhaps had been in the kitchen, came to the front of the house to try to help her husband.
“She fought till her death,” Beadle told jurors in opening statements. “She fought with every fiber she had in her.”
She fought so hard that she had several defensive wounds on her left hand, Mois said. Her left thumb was nearly severed.
Remarkably, the Brumbacks’ neighbors didn’t hear much.
A block away, neighbor Larry Mason said he heard three pops that Sunday. He said he initially believed that they were gunshots but then scanned his neighborhood for anyone running, anyone screaming. He didn’t see anything, he said, so he attributed the noises to a backfiring lawnmower.
The time? About 3:30 p.m.
Garcia’s defense team, meanwhile, continued to contend that prosecutors have no timeline for the Brumbacks’ deaths. They were last heard from on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013. But their bodies weren’t found until May 14, a Tuesday.
That led Robert Motta Jr. to ask a simple question of Gohr, the first firefighter to enter the Brumbacks’ house.
With bodies laying there for nearly two days, he asked: “Did the house smell?”
“I’ve walked into some houses, and the first thought I had was, ‘There’s a dead body in here,’” Gohr testified. “I don’t remember thinking that here.”
Motta also pointed out a curious sight: that Mary Brumback’s body appeared to be a foot or so from a large blood spot. In between her and the blood spot: mostly clean carpet.
Motta questioned how Mary Brumback’s body moved. Gohr said no first responders altered her body.
“I see what you’re talking about,” Gohr said. “That wasn’t something I made a mental note of. I just remember thinking, ‘Wow that’s a lot of blood.’”
Even with all the blood, it wasn’t hard to spot the signs of a couple on the cusp of their new adventure.
The house was almost completely packed. Two computer towers sat in the living room. The dining-room hutch was devoid of drawers. Boxes were stacked. Furniture was pushed to the middle.
On the kitchen table: the Sunday paper, its sections scattered, comics on top.
Just beyond it, a romance novel that Mary Brumback was reading, its pages propped open by a rock.
As he prepared the house to sell, Roger Brumback was dressed in painting clothes and loafers. There was a ladder in the entryway. Just beneath the ladder: an opened can of beige paint. In the paint: a drop of blood.
No more than 20 feet away, an 8-by-10 photo of a smiling Roger Brumback sits on a small desk. It’s his professional mug, from when he was chairman of Creighton University’s pathology department, in charge of residents — like Garcia once was.
A crime-scene photo captures that desk and its surroundings:
A manhole-sized blood stain on the carpet.
The lifeless legs of Mary Brumback.
And a promotional folder from the company hoping to pack up the rest of the Brumbacks’ belongings.
On its front, in large letters:
“Life never stops moving.”
Trial day 2 - Garcia trial, Day 2 recap: Police detective testifies he suspects 11-year-old boy was killed before housecleaner
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 4, 2016
Only Thomas Hunter, Shirlee Sherman and their killer or killers knew what occurred in the moments leading up to their brutal fatal stabbings.
But Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois offered his tragic theory on the second day of testimony in the Anthony Garcia murder trial.
A lone assailant confronted Thomas first, Mois said he believes, possibly forcing the 11-year-old boy to lie face down on the dining room rug and then stabbing him in the neck with a 5-inch kitchen knife from the home.
Sherman came upon the grisly scene and attempted to flee, Mois said.
“She’s found behind cleaning supplies, like she’s running through the hallway to get away,” Mois testified Tuesday.
Her body was discovered slumped and face down in a back hallway, blood running down a step. A 7-inch knife was lodged in her neck.
Investigators found mucus or vomit on Thomas’ shirt and discoloration on the back of Sherman’s shirt. Thomas could have vomited, and vomit was transferred to Sherman by the killer, Mois said. The defense team for Garcia offered another suggestion.
Jeremy Jorgenson asked Mois during cross-examination whether Sherman could have been killed first by multiple assailants, Thomas watched and vomited, then ran outside and was killed. Debris and leaves were found near Thomas’ socks and jacket left behind in another room.
“That’s not a theory we discussed that night,” Mois responded, adding later during redirect from Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle that there was no evidence that Thomas was killed outside the home.
Jorgenson also asked Mois about fingerprints that crime lab technicians lifted from the home.
“You would have been made aware if the prints matched Garcia, right?” Jorgenson asked.
“Yes, I would,” Mois said.
“And they didn’t, right?” Jorgenson pressed.
“No, they didn’t,” Mois responded.
Garcia, meanwhile, appeared to be sleeping during a late-morning crime lab technician’s testimony that was detailed and tedious. He rested his head on his left fist, then held his chin with both hands, elbows on the table and eyes closed.
In the afternoon, Garcia continued to write on his notepad, as he did Monday.
Another revelation came Tuesday from Mois’ testimony: Thomas may even have opened the door for the killer, a discrepancy from Monday’s testimony from Paul Medin, a neighbor who thought he saw a woman with brown, curly hair answer the door.
Beadle pointed out that Sherman had a bright blue bandanna covering her hair. Thomas had long, shaggy, curly brown hair.
Medin had been walking with one son to pick up another son at Dundee Elementary School that afternoon. He noticed a man who he had never seen before wearing a dark jacket with “olive skin” walking in the neighborhood.
“I had a bad feeling about what was happening,” Medin said.
Medin said he saw the man stumble as if tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and then continue to the Hunters’ front door.
Beadle asked Medin whether the man could have been drunk.
Possibly, Medin said.
Medin said he believed the man looked out of place, so he made a mental note to remember one thing: the house number of the Hunters.
“I had a suspicious feeling,” Medin testified.
Dana Boyle, who lived across the street from the Hunters’ home, saw Thomas get off the school bus and head up the front steps. Minutes later, at 3:12 p.m., she walked south on 54th Street to help her son walk across a busy street.
Boyle noticed a blue-gray Honda CRV driving north on 54th Street, she testified. The car was stopping and going, and the male driver who “looked of Middle Eastern descent” was looking on the east side of the street, as if he was looking for an address, Boyle said.
The license plate was not from Nebraska and had pastel colors.
Prosecutors have said Garcia had owned a silver CRV in 2008 that had Louisiana plates, but he later sold the vehicle to his parents.
The driver, who stopped just north of the Hunters’ home, looked at Boyle through the rear-view mirror and then sped off.
Boyle returned with her son and let her children play in the front yard. About an hour later, she drove her boys to get a haircut.
When she returned that evening, police had cordoned off her street.
Defense attorney David Reed questioned Boyle on various statements she made to police in a handful of interviews. Reed asked whether Boyle remembered telling officers that Sherman was the target or that she was worried about “predators” from video games that could have hurt Thomas.
Boyle, visibly annoyed at Reed’s questioning, said she and neighbors had been shocked at the vicious crime in an otherwise quiet neighborhood, and wanted to do anything to help.
“At the time we were all pretty distraught. We’re trying to come up with any kind of idea why (it occurred),” Boyle testified. “This was our beloved neighborhood, as well as a child we all loved.”
Three more neighbors testified Tuesday afternoon that they saw a silver Honda CRV park on 53rd Street just north of Dodge Street, facing south.
Jacqueline Foster, helping her son Aaron Foster with his paper route, was angry that the vehicle parked directly adjacent to her driveway and was vulnerable to getting hit. Jacqueline and Aaron both testified they recognized the type of vehicle because Jacqueline’s mother-in-law drives a silver CRV.
Mary Rommelfanger, who also lives on 53rd Street, said the driver was a man who “could have been Italian, Hispanic or Middle Eastern” and wore dark clothing. The man waited in the car for about a minute, she testified, then got out of the SUV and walked in the neighborhood.
Rommelfanger left her home about 4 p.m. to pick up her daughter from church. She returned at about 4:30 p.m., and the SUV was gone.
Hours later, her mother called to tell her two people had been killed on 54th Street.
“And I said to her, ’Oh my god, I saw the man,’” Rommelfanger recalled.
Trial day 1 - On Garcia trial's first day of testimony, father describes horror of discovering slaying victims, one his young son
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 4, 2016
A diminutive man, his hair as thin as he is, Dr. William “Bill” Hunter walked to the front of a Douglas County courtroom, five strides from the former employee who is accused of killing Hunter’s 11-year-old son.
Elbows planted on the arms of the witness chair, Hunter interlocked his fingers and described coming home on an otherwise mundane day to a surreal scene.
He first found Shirlee Sherman, a doting grandmother, on the landing of a back hallway. He later found his waif of a son, Thomas Hunter, in the dining room.
True to his medical roots, Hunter described his reaction in clinical terms.
A quickened heart rate. Rocketing blood pressure. A state of shock.
The 911 operator “kept asking, ‘Do you need a rescue squad?’” Hunter recalled Monday, the first witness in the murder trial of Anthony Garcia. “I said, ‘No these two are deceased. They’re dead. I need the police.’”
Asked to identify Exhibit No. 1649, he looked down through the thin black rims of his glasses at a photo from a happier time.
“Yes. That’s, uh, my son Thomas.”
In it, little Tom Hunter is wearing his YMCA basketball jersey. Beneath his shaggy hair, the 11-year-old flashes a smile of metal — the braces of a sixth-grader. The basketball he’s holding looks too big for his skinniness. And there appears to be some sort of formula written on his forearm — fitting for the kid who loved math and science.
Moments later, prosecutor Don Kleine slid another photo in front of Hunter. He asked Bill Hunter to identify Exhibit 1358.
“That’s my son,” he said quietly.
He looked away.
Jurors only wish they could have. Several averted their eyes at the image of the skinny boy, face down, with a knife in his neck.
The emotions of the biggest trial in a century of Omaha justice came out in little waves Monday: the deep breaths of Bill Hunter; Claire Hunter bowing her head as a son rubbed her back; a relative of Shirlee Sherman weeping quietly as she rested her head on the shoulder of Sherman’s son Jeff; the tearful embraces of victims’ families.
Attorneys on both sides of the Anthony Garcia case don’t agree on much. But as the case opened Monday, they both had a warning for jurors:
“This case will never leave you,” said Robert Motta Sr., one of Garcia’s attorneys.
Bill Hunter has images that will never leave him.
That Thursday, March 13, 2008, had been like any other, with this exception: Tom’s mother, Claire Hunter, a cardiologist and professor at Creighton, had been in Hawaii for a work conference.
So Bill Hunter stayed home a little later than normal that morning — and watched to make sure his youngest son safely boarded his 6:45 a.m. bus for King Science Center, where he was in the sixth grade.
After school, Tom, the youngest of the Hunters’ four sons, was a latchkey kid — “a very responsible kid,” his dad said.
Just the day before, Tom had spent his after-school hours playing with his friends at Dundee Elementary School, a block or so from the Hunters’ home.
Mom and Dad’s deal with son every day: Get home by 6 for dinner.
On this day, neither Tom nor Dad would have to worry. Instead of playing outside on the warm, windy March day, Tom decided to stay home and play his Xbox.
After a Creighton faculty meeting wrapped up after 5 p.m., Bill Hunter made the 10-minute drive home to 303 N. 54th St.
He noticed something was a bit off when he found Sherman’s white sedan pulled around to the back. She typically was gone by the time Hunter got home from work.
Hunter thought perhaps she was just running late.
He stepped inside their back door. There in the entryway to their kitchen were Tom’s favorite black Adidas shoes, his backpack plopped on the floor.
“That was pretty typical,” Bill Hunter chuckled. “He was supposed to take out his homework and sit at the kitchen table and do some homework. But a lot of times he would play video games (first).”
Hunter had taken just a few steps inside the entryway when he was startled to find Sherman, face down, at the landing of the steps. A knife in her neck.
“I just took one look at her,” Bill Hunter said. “And obviously she was dead. There was blood everywhere. Then I started getting a little worried, a little agitated. I immediately thought, ‘Where’s Tom?’”
Hearing an Xbox playing, he said he rushed down the stairs to the basement.
Halfway down, he could see the TV, the Xbox, a carton of Dr Pepper and a bag of potato chips. But no Tom. He rushed back upstairs.
“I was yelling, ‘Tom, Tom,’” he said, his palms up, as he recounted the scramble.
He then found his youngest son, face down, on a rug in the front dining room. He raced to him. Saw the blood. Saw the knife in the neck.
Reached for his son’s hand. There was no pulse.
“It was pretty obvious he was dead,” Bill Hunter said, his eyes blank. “A lot of the blood had soaked into the rug. And then I noticed the knife sticking in his neck. It was still in the neck. Likewise Shirlee.”
For a moment, he had no clue what to do.
“I was in a state of fright,” Hunter said. “My blood pressure was up. My heart was racing. I was just flabbergasted at what I was seeing.”
He called 911. However, Hunter said, he barely could get any words out.
“Fortunately, the 911 operator was professional,” he said. “I didn’t even know how to explain what I was seeing.”
In opening statements to jurors, prosecutors had a word for what Hunter was witnessing: revenge.
Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle told jurors that Garcia, one of Hunter’s former students, was miffed that Hunter had fired him from the Creighton University Medical Center in 2001.
That termination had dogged Garcia as he tried to land jobs and medical licenses across the country, Beadle said.
A month before the killings, Louisiana State University had fired Garcia from its medical program in February 2008.
The reason: LSU officials found out that Garcia had left out the Creighton firing on his application to their program.
The person who informed them of Garcia’s firing: Bill Hunter.
But the killer that March day scurried away — and the case went cold, Beadle said.
Then in 2013, the pattern happened again, Beadle said. Garcia was desperate for work, she said. He applied for a medical license in Indiana.
The person who informed Indiana of his Creighton firing? Dr. Roger Brumback.
Beadle outlined a number of evidentiary items that she says will connect Garcia to the killings: surveillance photos of Garcia in Omaha on the day authorities believe the Brumbacks were killed; DNA found on the door handle of another doctor the day the Brumbacks were killed; phone searches for the addresses of the Brumbacks and that of Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, the third Creighton doctor that prosecutors allege Garcia tried to target.
Garcia even searched for the address of Bewtra’s daughter, Beadle said.
Those clues will be explored in detail over the next four to six weeks of trial.
But there was one search that stood out.
Garcia had performed an Internet search on his smartphone for a quote from Shakespeare, Beadle said.
The quote: “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
Over and over in opening statements, Beadle used that quote — from “The Merchant of Venice” — to punctuate the steps she said Garcia took to get even with his former bosses.
“This case is about revenge,” she said.
One of Garcia’s attorneys, Robert Motta Sr., countered that the case is about a rush to judgment.
The pathology department at Creighton had a number of misfits, including a few other residents who had been fired about the same time as Garcia, Motta Sr. said.
And further, Motta said, FBI agents looking into the killings noted that another killing — the November 2007 slaying of Joy Blanchard — had the same pattern as the four killings in this case. Knife wounds to the neck — or knives actually left inside the neck.
Motta said two knives were left in Blanchard’s neck. A nephew of Blanchard’s, Charles Simmer, has been charged in her killing.
“I don’t know whether he did it or not,” Motta said of Simmer. “But the FBI thought it significant enough ... that they decided to investigate these five crimes as a serial killing. It’s something so striking that it’s almost like a signature.”
Prosecutors closed the day with images of that grisly signature.
“I can’t possibly prepare you for what you’re about to see,” Beadle warned.
The courtroom grew still.
Sherman was dressed in a bright blue shirt and pink pants. Tom in a T-shirt and a pair of his favorite shorts.
Next to him: the wire-rim eyeglasses he used to wear. Blood spots dotted the carpet beneath his glasses. Both Tom and Sherman were splayed, face down, on the first floor of the stately home. Butcher’s knives went all the way through their necks.
As close-ups of those photos were displayed, jurors craned their necks to look, then looked away. A few winced, only to periodically glance to see if the images were still there. Claire Hunter dropped her head and largely avoided the images.
One of Thomas’ older brothers comforted her, until he himself got up and left the courtroom.
As if the images weren’t enough, there’s another item branded on Bill Hunter’s brain.
After finding the bodies, Bill Hunter heard little — no one stirring in the quiet of the home. Nothing creaking.
The only thing he could hear was a persistent noise from downstairs.
The Xbox that Thomas had been playing remained on, Hunter said.
Over and over, it kept blaring the arcade-like noises that accompany video games.
The sounds of child’s play.
“That horrible music,” Bill Hunter said.
Former doctor 'stabbed four to death, including 11-year-old boy, to avenge his firing from medical center years before'
Prosecutors say that Dr. Anthony Garcia's firing from the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha led to revenge killings
In 2008, prosecutors allege that Garcia stabbed to death the 11-year-old son and housekeeper of one of the doctors who fired him in 2001
The other doctor who fired him as well as his wife were murdered in the same fashion in 2013, five years after the first killings
Garcia's life spiraled out of control after his termination - he couldn't get a license to practice medicine and his house was foreclosed on
Prosecutors say he blamed it all on the doctors who fired him and was determined to get revenge
By Associated Press and Kiri Blakeley For Dailymail.com
October 3, 2016
Prosecutors in Nebraska opened a first-degree murder trial Monday against a former doctor by arguing he committed four killings in Omaha to avenge his firing from Creighton University Medical Center.
Prosecutors outlined their case against Dr. Anthony Garcia, who is charged with stabbing to death the 11-year-old son of two medical doctors and the family's housekeeper in 2008.
He is also accused of killing another Omaha doctor and his wife in 2013 in the same gruesome way, stabbing them all in the necks and leaving the knives embedded in their flesh.
Prosecutors said the killings were motivated by Garcia's long-simmering rage from being fired from the medical school's residency program in 2001, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
'This is a case about revenge,' Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle said. 'This is a man whose life was spiraling into disaster, and he blamed Creighton.'
Garcia's attorneys responded that prosecutors lack witnesses or physical evidence.
Defense attorney Robert Motta Sr. called prosecutors' case a 'loosely woven tapestry' that would fall apart as lawyers present evidence.
Garcia was arrested in 2013 and charged with the 2008 killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and housekeeper Shirlee Sherman, 57. Their bodies were found by Thomas' father, Dr. William Hunter, who works in Creighton's pathology department.
The killings remained unsolved for years, and then, in May 2013, another Creighton pathology doctor, Roger Brumback, and his wife, Mary, were found slain in their Omaha home.
The Brumbacks, both 65, had also been stabbed in the necks, according to Omaha World-Herald. Roger Brumback had additionally been shot three times.
Investigators developed a motive in the killings, noting William Hunter and Roger Brumback had together fired Garcia from the Creighton residency program in 2001 for unprofessional conduct and later wrote letters that kept him from being accepted to other residency programs and approved for medical licenses in other states.
After opening statements, Hunter described calling 911 after finding the body of his son and Sherman.
'I didn't know how to explain what I was seeing,' Hunter testified. 'It didn't seem real to me.'
Garcia faces a possible death penalty if convicted.
Defense attorney Robert Motta Sr. strongly hinted that the cases were the work of an unknown serial killer instead - saying that a fifth victim in the area, who had nothing to do with Creighton, also died from neck stabbing.
'This is something that’s so striking, it’s almost like the signature of a killer,' he said in court.
A neighbor, Paul Medin, testified that on the afternoon of the killings of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman, on March 13, he saw a strange man walk up to the house, but assumed it was a 'traveling salesman.'
However, he said he had such a premonition about the man that he took note of the home's street address in case he heard of something happening there. Two hours later, he learned about the deaths.
Garcia was fired from the Creighton pathology department in May 2001 after a botched autopsy and behavior issues, including pranks.
William Hunter and Roger Brumback signed his letter of termination.
Garcia was fired in 2008 from Louisiana State University after officials there learned of his earlier termination, which he had failed to disclose.
Two weeks later, the Hunter home was the scene of unimaginable horror.
In 2012, he was unable to secure a license to practice medicine in Indiana and his house went into foreclosure.
Prosecutors said Garcia purchased a gun, and did internet searches on how to drive to Omaha.
The defense attorney, Motta, says the supposed internet searches are a 'rush to judgment.'
Bail denied doctor in 4 revenge killings
July 23, 2013
Bail was denied today for a doctor accused of killing four people in revenge for being fired 12 years ago from a university residency program.
Anthony J. Garcia, 40, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and heavily shackled, made his first appearance in Douglas County Court in Omaha this morning.
Garcia -- who practiced in Chicago -- has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths in May of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, in their Omaha home, as well as the murders of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and his family's housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman, also in Omaha, in 2008.
Police say the killings were acts of revenge against Brumback and another Creighton University doctor who fired him from a pathology residency in 2001 for unprofessional conduct.
Garcia was arrested last week in southern Illinois, and extradited late on Thursday to Omaha. An affidavit unsealed last week showed receipts, eyewitness accounts, cell phone records, and evidence at the Brumbacks' home connected Garcia to Omaha at the times of the killings.
Garcia's attorneys argued before Judge Lawrence Barrett Tuesday that the evidence in the affidavit was "circumstantial and thinly veiled." Garcia will be held in the Douglas County Department of Corrections pending a preliminary hearing set for August 14.
The Brumbacks, both 65, were found dead on May 14. Each had stab wounds to the side of their necks and Dr. Brumback also was shot, according to the affidavit. Police said the stab wounds were similar to ones found in the 2008 murders.
Garcia was fired in 2001 by Brumback and Dr. William Hunter. The murdered 11 year old was Hunter's son, but Police have said they do not believe the boy or the housekeeper were the intended targets.
According to the affidavit and records, Garcia had applied for an Indiana medical license in 2008 and in 2012. Indiana denied his requests. Records released by the Indiana medical board from those applications show he failed to complete residencies in New York, Illinois and Louisiana in addition to Nebraska.
He was suspended from a New York residency for yelling at a radiology technician, then withdrew from the program in 1999. He also withdrew from an Illinois residency, citing migraine headaches.
Garcia's application for a Louisiana medical license was rejected in February 2008, two weeks before Hunter and Sherman were killed, in part because he had not completed the other residency programs.
(Reporting by Katie Schubert, Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Alden Bentley)
Doctor charged in 4 killings
Cops: Former Chicago-based physician responsible for Omaha slayings in '08 and '13
By Michelle Manchir, Jodi S. Cohen and Jeremy Gorner - Chicago Tribune
July 16, 2013
Working with elderly patients in the Chicago area just a few years ago, Dr. Anthony Joseph Garcia was always gentle and pleasant, according to his former boss, who remembered him as a highly professional physician.
But Garcia, 40, had a troubled past. Over the years, he failed to complete four medical residencies, including one at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Now, authorities say grudges that took hold during years of professional frustration led Garcia to kill four people in Omaha, Neb., where he was once a resident at Creighton University. He was arrested this week in southern Illinois.
One of his alleged victims was the 11-year-old son of one of the doctors who fired him in 2001 from his residency at Creighton. The boy, Thomas Hunter, and his family's housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman, 57, were stabbed to death by someone who broke into the Hunters' Omaha home in 2008.
Then in May, police say Garcia killed the other doctor he blamed for his undoing at Creighton, Roger Brumback, and his wife, Mary, both 65. Roger Brumback was fatally shot, his wife was stabbed to death, authorities said.
"I did not see any indications that he was capable of (this). I did not see anything like that," said Dr. Vladimir Vidanovic, a UIC assistant professor of clinical pathology who was in the same resident class as Garcia at UIC and described him as being quiet, calm and withdrawn.
On Monday, Illinois State Police stopped Garcia in Union County and took him into custody. He showed signs of alcohol impairment and had a .45-caliber handgun with him but was taken in without incident, Omaha police Chief Todd Schmaderer said at a news conference this week.
Garcia, who had been living in Terre Haute, Ind., was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and use of a weapon in the slayings, Schmaderer said. Authorities will seek his extradition to Nebraska Wednesday.
A task force of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials was set up in May to investigate the four slayings in Omaha and determine if they were connected. Schmaderer said the task force had been watching Garcia for some time and decided to make the arrest when he went on the move.
While Garcia failed to get a medical license in at least four states, he was given a license to practice medicine in Illinois in 2003, while he was still a UIC resident, records show. The license has been renewed since then and his current license is set to expire next year. Garcia has had no disciplinary issues, said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Hofer said she could not explain why Illinois granted Garcia a license to practice medicine in the state when so many other states had found his record problematic.
In March, several months after being denied a license to practice medicine in Indiana, Garcia was arrested for DUI while driving a Ferrari in southwest suburban Bedford Park. A breath test indicated his blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit.
Garcia's parents, reached at their home in Walnut, Calif., Tuesday, declined to comment. His Chicago-area lawyers, Alison and Robert Motta II, said they had been contacted by Garcia's family at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and planned to meet with Garcia on Tuesday evening.
"The family believes strongly in his innocence and that he has not done what he's being charged with, and they fully stand behind him," Alison Motta said.
Garcia got his medical degree from the University of Utah in 1999, according to records he filed with the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana.
Garcia started a residency in family practice at Bassett St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. He stayed for about six months before records indicate he resigned to avoid a disciplinary investigation and hearing into his "unprofessional and inappropriate conduct" during an incident in the radiology department, according to the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct.
Garcia later told the medical licensing board in Indiana that he had been "essentially fired" from the residency because he had yelled at a radiology technician. He said he felt he was being treated unfairly, records show.
Garcia began his residency in Creighton's Department of Pathology in July 2000, according to records. He was fired almost a year later on the grounds that he placed a telephone call to a fellow resident's home while the resident was taking an examination. Garcia allegedly told the resident's wife that her husband needed to return to the Department of Pathology, according to school officials.
Schmaderer said Garcia was fired by Dr. Brumback and Dr. William Hunter, Thomas Hunter's father, "for a form of erratic behavior."
Garcia said he was "essentially fired" because he had called the fellow resident to tell him his vacation was not approved.
His next stop was the residency program at the UIC Medical Center, where he was enrolled from 2001 through 2003, according to records. Garcia told Indiana authorities that he left the residency "due to poor health/Migraine headaches/Depression."
Several of Garcia's former colleagues at UIC described him as someone who was not a standout physician, but who also didn't exhibit any obviously troubling behavior. A UIC spokeswoman declined to comment on the circumstances of Garcia's departure from the program.
Dr. Robert Folberg, head of UIC's pathology department when Garcia was a resident, said he couldn't recall why Garcia left.
"There was something that happened and he separated," said Folberg, now dean of Oakland University's medical school in Michigan. "Typically residents don't separate from us if they are doing swimmingly."
Garcia enrolled in a psychiatry residency at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. On Feb. 27, 2008, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners wrote to Garcia informing him that he may not possess the necessary qualifications for medical licensure because he did not report that he did not complete the pathology programs at Creighton or UIC.
Garcia left the institution the next day, records show.
About two weeks later, on March 13, 2008, the bodies of Thomas Hunter and Sherman were found.
Later that year, in December 2008, Garcia applied for a license to practice medicine in Indiana and was granted a temporary permit until he withdrew his application. At the time, he listed an apartment in Chicago as his residence.
The apartment is located above Visiting Physicians in the Near West Side, where Garcia worked as a contract physician in 2009, making house calls to elderly patients.
His former boss, Dr. Benjamin Toh, on Tuesday described him as an ideal tenant and doctor who had no complaints from his patients.
Alison Motta said her client had been under surveillance by Nebraska authorities when he was pulled over by Illinois state police. Garcia is scheduled to appear for an extradition hearing Wednesday in Union County.
Tribune reporters Carlos Sadovi, Rosemary Regina Sobol, Ari Bloomekatz and Cynthia Dizikes contributed. Reuters also contributed.