Guilty ver­dict in grisly slay­ing

Pros­e­cu­tors say man dis­mem­bered a good Sa­mar­i­tan in 2010 to live out a fan­tasy.

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

For weeks, El­iz­a­beth Peter­son sat qui­etly in a down­town Los An­ge­les court­room, lis­ten­ing to ev­ery de­tail of her son’s grue­some mur­der — try­ing to push the hor­ror from her mind and silently dream­ing of the time when her Tracy was still alive.

But when she heard the word “guilty” Tues­day, she f in­ally let out a loud cry: “Yes, yes! Thank you!”

Jurors had found Ed­ward Gar­cia, 41, guilty of f irst- de­gree mur­der in the Novem­ber 2010 killing of Herbert Tracy White, whose re­mains were found in a Los An­ge­les ho­tel room.

Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused Gar­cia and his wife, Melissa, of killing 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 in a “rit­u­al­is­tic killing.”

As the ver­dict was read, Ed­ward Gar­cia shook his head back and forth while rub­bing the band on his left ring fin­ger.

In the hall­way, Peter­son and her two other sons, David and An­thony White, thanked jurors and Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKin­ney and cried in their arms.

“We f in­ally got some jus­tice for my son,” Peter­son said. “I’m happy that this day has come and gone.”

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments last week, McKin­ney re­counted the grisly scene at the Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel near skid row. Po­lice found White’s sev­ered arms still bound by duct tape.

Un­der the blood- soaked bed was White’s torso, rid­dled with scratches and punc­tures.

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

Days be­fore his death in Novem­ber 2010, White met the cou­ple at a bank in Hol­ly­wood. White, a for­mer co­caine ad­dict turned Al­co­holics and Nar­cotics Anony­mous spon­sor, gave the Gar­cias his phone num­ber and said to call him if they ever wanted help 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 the ho­tel and paid to check them in.

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

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

She de­scribed a far dif­fer­ent se­ries of events for jurors, say­ing that White had brought drugs to the room and was seek­ing sex from Melissa Gar­cia.

Jurors also found true the spe­cial- cir­cum­stance al­le­ga­tions of mur­der dur­ing a rob­bery and tor­ture. Gar­cia faces a manda­tory sen­tence of life with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role. His sen­tenc­ing hear­ing is set for Aug. 14.

Peter­son said the de­fense’s nar­ra­tive an­gered her and that its lies sul­lied her son’s mem­ory. White was a ded­i­cated hus­band, Peter­son said, who had over­come the evils in his past and f lour­ished in his so­bri­ety.

“They tried to ma­lign my son’s char­ac­ter,” she said.

An­thony White re­counted how his younger brother was fiercely de­voted to his fam­ily, gen­er­ous and al­ways will­ing to care for any­one in need.

“He wanted to help peo­ple,” he said. “There’s no rea­son why he shouldn’t be here with us to­day.”

Melissa Gar­cia, 30, is await­ing a sep­a­rate trial.

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