The trial of Estevan Adrian Garcia and Sacora Rose Horn-Garcia, accused of murdering their 5-year-old daughter by withholding food and medical attention, has been delayed yet again.
Now, one of Deschutes County’s most high-profile criminal cases won’t be decided until at least October.
Garcia, 35, and Horn-Garcia, 33, are already the longest-serving inmates in the Deschutes County jail by nearly a year. They are accused of murder, manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the 2016 death of Maliyha Hope Garcia.
“Mr. Garcia, I want to make sure, is your desire to delay the trial until September?” Judge Beth Bagley asked Thursday in Deschutes County Circuit Court before turning the question to Garcia’s wife.
Seated next to their respective attorneys, the couple answered in the affirmative.
Bagley scheduled the seven-week trial to begin with jury selection Sept. 17. Motions in the case will be due in early summer and a hearing to go over them is scheduled for August.
“Your Honor, I would like the record to be clear, the state was ready and prepared to go to trial starting on Jan. 23, 2019,” said prosecutor Kandy Gies, who added the victim’s family wants the case resolved “as soon as possible.”
Defense attorneys said Thursday they were also ready for trial when one of Garcia’s lawyers left the case.
“You can’t just pop in and rock-and-roll,” Shawn Kollie, lawyer for Garcia, told The Bulletin. “Any attorney on a major felony is going to need at least a couple months. At least. We have constitutional rights to a fair trial, and so in order to have a fair trial, both sides have to have time to be adequately prepared.”
Garcia and Horn-Garcia were arrested in April 2017, four months after Maliyha’s death. The state medical examiner’s office determined she died from emaciation. Charging documents in the case assert the couple neglected, mistreated and showed extreme indifference to Maliyha and withheld adequate food and medical care.
At about 10:30 a.m., Dec. 21, 2016, emergency responders entered the couple’s home on SW Metolius Place in Redmond and found Maliyha unconscious on the living room floor with her knees bent, her body stiff and her lips blue. Paramedics took over CPR from Horn-Garcia, who was attempting to revive the child when they arrived. She was pronounced dead at St. Charles Redmond. An autopsy was conducted the next day. At the time of her death, she was 3 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 24 pounds — measurements that put her in the 0.1 percentile for children her age.
One of the responding Redmond Police Department officers reported the girl’s arms and legs looked like “bones with skin hanging on them,” and every one of her ribs was visible.
Garcia and a former fiancee had adopted Maliyha, Garcia’s niece, when she was 3 months old. His sister had lost custody immediately after the girl’s birth when methamphetamine was found in her system.
Garcia and Horn-Garcia were married in 2014, four months after they met.
According to attorneys from both sides, several factors led to delays in a case in a court system known for moving slow.
One reason is the medical complexity of the case. Proving murder by starvation isn’t simple. The state medical examiner’s office first had to reach its conclusions before the defense’s experts weighed in. And various medical records had to be shared among the parties.
In addition, a car crash that seriously injured medical examiner Cliff Nelson added to the delay. Nelson performed Maliyha’s autopsy and is to be a “necessary” witness for the prosecution, according to court filings.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org