Pros­e­cu­tor de­tails ‘rit­u­al­is­tic killing’

Jury hears a taped con­fes­sion in the trial over a man’s slay­ing and dis­mem­ber­ment in a skid row ho­tel.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Stephen Ceasar stephen.ceasar@latimes.com Twit­ter: @sjceasar

Two weeks af­ter the dis­mem­bered re­mains of Herbert Tracy White were found in Room 66 of the Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in down­town Los An­ge­les, Ed­ward Gar­cia calmly told po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors he could not re­mem­ber the killing, but knew what he had done.

“I wish that it wasn’t me in that room — but it was. I did that,” Gar­cia said in a taped in­ter­view played for jurors Thurs­day.

As his recorded voice boomed through the court­room, a pho­to­graph of a smil­ing White was beamed from a pro­jec­tor onto the wall. Gar­cia re­moved his black-rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes and stared straight ahead.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKin­ney told jurors that Gar­cia and his wife, Melissa Hope Gar­cia, killed White as part of a “long-held fan­tasy” of dis­mem­ber­ing a body. The pros­e­cu­tor said Ed­ward Gar­cia carved up White’s body with a 31⁄ 2- inch blade and dis­sected and sliced a piece of leg mus­cle from the bone in what he called a “rit­u­al­is­tic killing.”

Dur­ing his clos­ing ar­gu­ments, McKin­ney re­counted the grue­some scene at the ho­tel. Po­lice found White’s sev­ered arms still bound by duct tape, and a back­pack full of flesh. Un­der the blood­soaked bed was White’s torso, rid­dled with scratches and small punc­tures.

“It was a blood­bath,” McKin­ney said. “They took this man apart.”

Days be­fore his death in Novem­ber 2010, White met the mar­ried cou­ple at a Chase bank in Hol­ly­wood. White, a for­mer co­caine ad­dict turned Al­co­holics and Nar­cotics Anony­mous spon­sor, gave them his phone num­ber and sug­gested they call him if they ever wanted help­ing get­ting sober, McKin­ney said.

On the evening be­fore White’s body was found, the cou­ple called him and said they needed help. He drove them to skid row and paid to check them in to the Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel.

McKin­ney told jurors that the Gar­cias lured in White with the in­ten­tion of rob­bing, tor­tur­ing and mu­ti­lat­ing him.

“It sounds crazy, un­til you know that it ac­tu­ally hap­pened,” McKin­ney said. “They thought about this long be­fore they met Mr. White.”

McKin­ney urged the jury to con­vict Ed­ward Gar­cia of first-de­gree mur­der, ar­gu­ing that the ev­i­dence showed the cou­ple planned the killing and tor­ture and car­ried them out while rob­bing him.

Deputy Public De­fender Hay­deh Taka­sugi did not dis­pute that Ed­ward Gar­cia was re­spon­si­ble for White’s death. But she said McKin­ney was push­ing a “fan­tasti- cal the­ory” be­cause he lacked the ev­i­dence to prove pre­med­i­ta­tion, tor­ture or rob­bery.

She de­scribed a far dif­fer­ent se­ries of events for jurors.

When White en­coun­tered the cou­ple again af­ter meet­ing at the bank, she said, White told them that he could not stop think­ing about them. He then turned to Melissa Gar­cia and added, “I couldn’t stop think­ing of you.”

He told a ho­tel se­cu­rity guard that Melissa Gar­cia was his girl­friend and wrote a false name in a reg­istry at the front desk, the at­tor­ney said. Sex­ual lu­bri­cant — the same type found at White’s house — was in the ho­tel room, Taka­sugi said.

At the time of the killing, Ed­ward Gar­cia had used two bag­gies of meth that White re­port­edly gave him at the ho­tel. Ed­ward was a her- oin and crack co­caine ad­dict, but had never used meth be­fore, she said.

Taka­sugi said that the dis­mem­ber­ment oc­curred af­ter White died or near the time of death and that there was no ev­i­dence that the cou­ple robbed White.

Clos­ing ar­gu­ments are ex­pected to con­clude Fri­day.

Bar­bara David­son Los An­ge­les Times

DE­FEN­DANT Ed­ward Gar­cia at his mur­der trial on Thurs­day. “I wish that it wasn’t me in that room — but it was,” a po­lice au­dio­tape of his voice said.

VIC­TIM Herbert Tracy White of Hol­ly­wood was killed in Novem­ber 2010.

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