Around 8:30 a.m. on the day their daughter died from emaciation, Estevan Garcia and Sacora Horn-Garcia were texting each other, trying to decide if they should take the 5-year-old girl to a doctor.
Four months later, Garcia, 34, and Horn-Garcia, 31, were charged with murder for allegedly intentionally withholding food from Maliyha. Their texts, part of court documents released Thursday, show the couple’s awareness of the severity of the child’s condition.
“Would you feel scared taking her in to urgent care most likely they would just swab her nose to see if she has the flu,” Garcia texted that day, Dec. 21, 2016.
“I dont know,” Horn-Garcia responded.
“To me urgent care is always less professorial like there doctors are always laid back,” Garcia texted.
“Alright. I think she def needs to go in today,” his wife said.
“Might be good to go down there with all the kids to show they are healthy,” Garcia suggested.
But neither parent took Maliyha Hope Garcia to the doctor that morning, the court documents note. Instead, emergency responders entered the couple’s Redmond home about two hours later and found Maliyha unconscious on the living room floor with her knees bent. Her body was stiff. Her lips were blue.
Horn-Garcia, who had called 911, was giving the child CPR when police arrived. But rigor mortis had set in by the time Maliyha reached the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the court documents state.
That day, she weighed 24 pounds.
“Arms and legs looked like bones with skin hanging on them,” Redmond Police officer Jered Kirk noted in his report, which was included in the court documents. Kirk also detailed Maliyha’s condition: Every one of her ribs was visible.
An autopsy, performed the next day, ruled that Maliyha died of emaciation.
Garcia and Horn-Garcia were arrested April 6 and have plea hearings June 12. Attorneys for both have declined to speak about the case, citing a gag order imposed shortly after the arrest by Deschutes County Circuit Judge Beth Bagley.
But the documents reveal details in the case.
Garcia adopted Maliyha, his niece, when she was 3 months old. She was born with methamphetamine in her system, and her mother immediately lost custody.
Two years later, in August 2014, Garcia met Horn-Garcia. They were married on New Year’s Eve.
But over the next two-plus years, long trail of abuse occurred, investigators found.
Witnesses reported Horn-Garcia and Garcia routinely withheld food from Maliyha as a form of punishment, court documents show. She was also locked in a bedroom rigged with an alarm that would alert her parents if she snuck out at night to get food.
Witnesses also stated Maliyha was punished by being forced into a cold shower when she wet the bed, and was forced to stand out in the cold in a bathing suit while others warmed up by a campfire due to alleged misbehavior during a camping trip.
Medical history recorded by Dr. Mary Rogers at Central Oregon Pediatric Associates shows that at age 3, Maliyha was at the 50th percentile for weight. By 4, that dropped to the fifth percentile. Upon her death, both her height and weight — about 3 feet, 2 inches — were in the 0.1 percentile.
At 24 pounds, she was the same weight that doctors had recorded for her at 20 months old.
Maliyha is reported to have had the flu in the days leading up to her death, according to court documents. Horn-Garcia reported to police that Maliyha wasn’t eating due to the illness. However, there were signs of prolonged malnurishment, such as a distended stomach, a nearly nonexistent thymus gland, muscle wasting, shrunken arms and thighs and hair that was thin and sparse, court documents show.
After Maliyha died, police interviewed family friends, including a 13-year-old girl who played at the Garcia home. The teenager often saw family members eating — tacos, nachos, hot dogs, a meal from Panda Express — when Maliyha only got a salad, the court documents state.
“She kept asking if she could come have food,” the girl is quoted as saying in court documents. “They would just ignore her.”
Another time, the family watched a movie and excluded Maliyha, forcing her to read instead.
“Every time she looked up they would say ‘read the book,’” the girl told investigators.
The girl told police about a camping trip where she saw Maliyha’s parents withhold food. After dinner, everyone changed into warm clothes. But no one helped Maliyha out of her bathing suit, and when everyone started to get warm next to a fire, Maliyha was told to stay away.
The girl stated Maliyha was in trouble all of the time, mostly for wetting the bed, not talking enough because she was shy and sneaking food at night.
Maliyha occasionally ate dinner with the teenager and her family and when she did, the child would ask for additional food, the girl told police. Maliyha would eat to the point of throwing up.
—Reporter: 541-383-0376, firstname.lastname@example.org