The discovery of new evidence has delayed the murder trial of husband and wife Estevan Garcia and Sacora Horn-Garcia, who are accused of starving their daughter to death.
The trial was scheduled to resume Tuesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, with the first defense witnesses prepared to testify. But the day instead began with lawyers announcing they had recently learned of screenshots of Instagram posts between Horn-Garcia and a witness in the trial.
Garcia and Horn-Garcia are charged with intentionally withholding food and medical care to their 5-year-old daughter, Maliyha, who died Dec. 21, 2016. She weighed 24 pounds. Starvation was determined to be her cause of death.
Neither the content of the Instagram posts nor the dates they were alleged to have been sent were revealed in court, but prosecutor Kandy Gies said the witness believes the posts will help Garcia and hurt Horn-Garcia.
Judge Beth Bagley took a brief recess to review the 24 pages of screenshots. When she returned she said the posts had the potential to affect the trial’s outcome.
“I believe the messages are highly probative and relevant,” said Bagley, who delayed the trial until Thursday so the screenshots could be authenticated.
Aaron Brenneman, attorney for Horn-Garcia, argued for the new evidence to be excluded.
“We believe that (the screenshots) are not authentic and so this creates a significant issue for us with regards to due process and our ability to present our defense,” Brenneman said.
Jon Weiner, attorney for Garcia, called the screenshots a “game-changer.”
Before breaking for the day Tuesday, the judge allowed one witness to testify. Garcia’s lawyers called Victoria Pike, who babysat for the couple from 2015 until Dec. 10, 2016.
Pike described Maliyha as “very small” and “very, very quiet,” and her sisters often spoke for her because she had difficulty speaking clearly, Pike said.
Pike was asked if she noticed any change in Maliyha or her sisters during her time as babysitter. She answered no.
She was asked if Maliyha ever asked for food.
“No, but I would have given it to her,” Pike said. “Of course.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com