Anthony Garcia's attorneys want him
evaluated for mental illness before death-penalty hearing
By Todd Cooper -
World-Herald staff writer
March 13, 2017
With Anthony Garcia’s attorneys calling his
communications “gobbledygook,” a judge wants to question Garcia to
determine his mental fitness to face a death penalty hearing in
the slayings of four Omahans.
Defense attorney Jeremy Jorgenson said in court
Tuesday that Garcia has not communicated with his attorneys or his
family in months, save for “nonsensical” letters.
Garcia didn’t talk to his attorneys throughout
the three-week trial that led to his convictions in the March 2008
deaths of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, and the May
2013 deaths of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65.
Garcia, a former doctor, killed the four as
revenge for his firing from Creighton University Medical Center by
Thomas’ father, Dr. William Hunter, and Dr. Brumback.
“Either he’s incredibly talented at sounding
insane — or he is insane,” Jorgenson said. “I don’t know the
Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall
presented a third option: Maybe Garcia just doesn’t want to talk
to his attorneys.
The judge noted that Garcia has often displayed
defiant behavior — before, during and after the murder case.
Randall said he has a responsibility to talk to
Garcia to ensure that he can actively participate, if he wants to,
in the death penalty proceedings against him.
Such an inquiry may be easier said than done.
Garcia again refused to come to court Tuesday — the second time he
has done so since his October conviction.
However, the judge said, defiance doesn’t
necessarily indicate delusions; eccentricity doesn’t equate to
Randall said Garcia’s writings always have been
strange. He wrote of assuming other people’s identities, wearing
Band-Aids on his fingers, renting a boat and fleeing through
Canada or the Gulf of Mexico. He also wrote reminders to himself
to “brush teeth.”
Other writings have been more erratic. While
awaiting trial, Garcia once sent a note to jail officials. “I
raped babies,” it said.
He also claimed to have been gang-raped by five
Douglas County jailers. After those allegations, Douglas County
Attorney Don Kleine alerted a judge. The judge ordered a
competency evaluation and delayed the start of his trial — one of
several delays before Garcia ultimately was convicted.
Randall noted that Garcia was defiant in
evaluations — one in March 2014 and one in December 2015 —
performed by Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrists. He refused to
talk to them. Even so, psychiatrists found him competent to stand
Similarly, a Douglas County jail sergeant said
Tuesday that Garcia never engages in “small talk” with jailers. He
is given orders, he sometimes complies, sometimes refuses and
sometimes gives his opinion — and that’s the end of it.
Jorgenson pointed to Garcia’s behavior during
his three-week trial.
“You were here, the county attorney was here,
media was here,” Jorgenson said. “He was often sleeping (and)
never saying one word to us throughout the course of the trial.”
“No, but he’s speaking to the sheriff,” Randall
said. “He’s speaking to the court, on occasion.
“I think he made a choice” not to talk to his
attorneys, Randall said.
Jorgenson countered: “It is possible that (Mr.)
Garcia was exercising an extraordinary amount of will. It’s also
possible that his mind has unraveled. I don’t know when or if his
mind unraveled, but I think it has to be addressed.
“If not, it would essentially just be a
steamroller of justice.”
Both Kleine and the judge questioned why it has
taken so long for Garcia’s attorneys to broach the issue. Kleine
noted that prosecutors were the ones who sought to have Garcia’s
mental health evaluated after the gang-rape comments.
At that point, the defense fought those efforts
— saying Garcia was competent and calling Kleine’s attempts to
have Garcia evaluated a “ploy” to delay the trial.
Kleine noted that a jail official has said
Garcia understands all of the questions posed to him. The county
attorney suggested that the judge question Garcia directly.
Randall scheduled a Monday hearing to do so.
However, the judge said, he was undecided as to whether he would
order Garcia to be extricated from his cell if he refuses to go.
Jury finds aggravating factors that could
lead to death penalty for Anthony Garcia
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 29, 2016
Anthony Garcia is halfway to death row.
A Douglas County jury took just 30 minutes Friday — roughly as
much time as the judge took to read them instructions — to
find that prosecutors had proven three aggravating factors that
could lead to the death penalty.
» that Garcia killed multiple people;
» that he killed to conceal his identity; and
» that the killings were especially heinous and cruel and
manifested exceptional depravity.
On that last factor, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine displayed
the grisly photos of each victim in the case: Thomas
Hunter, 11; Shirlee Sherman, 57; and Dr. Roger and Mary Brumback,
“I’m sorry to show those to you again,” Kleine told jurors. “It’s
not fun to look at. Not fun to talk about. But it’s
As the images went up, Sherman’s son, Jeff, motioned to his niece
to avert her eyes.
Madison, 14, threw her blond hair over her face and covered her
eyes. She was just a 6-year-old kindergartner when her
grandmother was killed.
In fact, Shirlee Sherman had almost finished cleaning the Hunters’
house and was on her way out to go pick up Madison
“I didn’t want her to see that,” Jeff Sherman said. “I don’t want
those to be the lasting memories of her grandmother.”
But other relatives of the victims and the jurors won’t be able to
erase those images.
The case now will move to a three-judge panel to determine whether
Garcia should receive the death penalty for the
revenge-fueled killings of Hunter and Sherman in March 2008 and
the Brumbacks in May 2013.
It’s not clear when that panel will convene. Nebraskans will vote
Nov. 8 on whether to keep the state’s death penalty. If
the death penalty is rejected, then Garcia would get a life
sentence without the possibility of parole.
What wasn’t expected Friday: Garcia, 43, didn’t show up for the
After he refused to leave his cell, a jail sergeant told him he
needed to come to court so a jury could determine whether
aggravating factors existed that might lead him to death row.
Garcia’s response: “Why would I do that?”
Garcia wasn’t the only no-show. His lead attorney, Robert Motta
Jr., also wasn’t present. Robert Motta Sr. appeared,
saying Garcia has had no communication with his attorneys or his
family. “Our client hasn’t spoken to us for months,”
Motta Sr. said.
Garcia’s family was in court, however, to see jurors find a total
of 10 out of a possible 12 aggravating factors in the
four slayings. The only two aggravators they didn’t identify were
that either Thomas Hunter or Sherman was killed to
conceal Garcia’s identity.
Kleine said the aggravating factors were no-brainers. The first
two: Garcia committed multiple killings and he killed
some of the victims so they couldn’t identify him or testify
Kleine spent most of his time on the third prong: that Garcia’s
acts were especially heinous and cruel and manifested
Photo by photo, Kleine pointed out the terror that must have been
going through each victim’s head. He pointed out all
the stab wounds to each, including Thomas.
“If that’s not exercising torture and causing mental anguish in
that little boy’s head,” Kleine said, “I don’t know what
Motta Sr. said he didn’t have anything to say that could “rebuke
those photographs.” He asked jurors to consider other
images they have seen of disgusting violence such as beheadings —
apparently referencing ISIS-level atrocities — and
“I can’t tell you what to think or what to decide,” Motta said.
“All I can tell you is to look to your respective
religions and God and make a decision based on that.”
After the jurors made their decision, members of Sherman’s family
stood up and removed their sweaters and sweatshirts. On
their T-shirts were no words. Just two images — images the
families would rather remember. The top half of the T-shirt:
Thomas, smiling through his braces. The bottom half: Shirlee
Sherman, a smile of contentment.
“I know she’s at peace,” Jeff Sherman said. “I’m hoping that all
of the families — the Hunters, the Brumbacks — can now have a
little bit of peace.”
Trial day 17 - ‘They got the right guy,’ Thomas Hunter's
mother says; Anthony Garcia is found guilty on all counts
By Todd Cooper, Alia Conley and Christopher Burbach
October 28, 2016
Rob Hunter sat 20 feet from Anthony Garcia, the man accused of
plunging a knife through his little brother’s neck.
His mom, Dr. Claire Hunter, was beside him. His brother Jeff
Hunter on the other side.
Rob threw his arms around both as the family braced for a clerk to
read the jury’s verdict on count 1.
Count 1 — the murder charge connected to Thomas Hunter, 11 — would
be the tell: the verdict that would portend the eight
others in the mystery of who committed the grisly crimes that
rocked Omaha in 2008 and 2013. Prosecutors had evidence in
the killings of Thomas and Shirlee Sherman, 57, but it wasn’t
nearly as staggering as the evidence that Garcia had killed
Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary.
In a courtroom packed with grieving families, lined with police
officers and sheriff’s deputies and filled with tension,
Court Clerk John Friend began his usual soliloquy:
“We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn to well and truly try ...
do find said defendant ...”
Rob Hunter gripped the shoulder of his mother’s gray sweater.
“GUILTY of Count 1, murder in the first degree ...”
Claire Hunter clasped her son’s knee.
“GUILTY of Count 2, use of a weapon ...”
Rob Hunter’s chest started to heave.
With every successive guilty declaration, Rob gave his mom’s
shoulder a squeeze.
And so it went on down the row. With each pronouncement of guilt,
the Hunters held together more tightly.
And behind them, Sherman’s family. Her brother, Brad Waite, wiped
away a tear as his wife, Mary, hugged him. Tears welled
in the eyes of Sherman’s son, Jeff, 42, and her granddaughter,
And somewhere in California, Utah and Colorado — they didn’t want
to be in court — the Brumbacks’ adult children breathed
sighs of relief.
Anthony Garcia is guilty. Guilty of the savage killings of four of
society’s most innocent:
» Dr. Roger Brumback, a grandpa and medical doctor who devoted his
life to health care, particularly focusing on children
and the elderly.
» His wife, Mary Brumback, an active volunteer, grandma and former
lawyer who penned letters to her daughter once a week
and had just attended her first grandchild’s baptism.
» Thomas Hunter, a witty and intelligent sixth-grader who had just
hopped off the bus and descended to the basement to
drink a Dr Pepper and play Xbox.
» And Shirlee Sherman, a hard-working sister, mother and doting
grandmother with six grandkids.
That March 13, 2008, day, Sherman was almost done cleaning the
Hunters’ Dundee home, ready to pick up Madison, then 6,
from kindergarten when Garcia caught Sherman near the back stairs.
He poked and stabbed her neck 17 times before plunging
the knife all the way through.
“The son of a bitch,” Brad Waite said.
For his part, Garcia showed no emotion, only resignation.
As the guilty counts rolled, he cocked his head back and to the
left and leaned back in his chair, his left arm dangling
off the arm of the chair rest.
Two rows behind him, his mother, Estella, had cupped a tissue in
her hands. She dropped her head into a full weep and
leaned into the shoulder of her husband. That man, Frederick
Garcia — who had packed an old van and driven his son across
the country for his first doctor’s job after medical school —
lowered his chin.
As a judge dismissed jurors, Anthony Garcia rose from his seat.
“You ready?” he asked deputies, before shuffling to jail.
Outside, the victims’ families released years of angst and
Claire Hunter and sons Rob and Jeff smiled with relief. Claire’s
husband, Dr. William Hunter, testified at trial to his
firing of Garcia and to finding Thomas and Sherman at home.
However, he didn’t attend either the closing arguments or
In her first public comments about the crimes, Claire Hunter told
The World-Herald that the case is as staggering today
as it was in March 2008 — “when you get a call from a friend and
you’re told two people are dead and you don’t even know
which two people they are.”
Garcia “was a guy who my husband didn’t hire, didn’t say a word
when they fired him, and he comes back seven years later
and kills our son?” Claire Hunter said. “That’s not a normal
response, not even to anger. That’s not revenge — stabbing
somebody 18 times in the neck.
“What he did to those four people is animal.”
Up next: The jury of six men and six women, who deliberated 7½
hours before reaching their verdict, will reconvene Friday
to determine whether prosecutors have proven aggravating factors
that could send Garcia to death row. A three-judge panel
will convene later.
“What I can’t get over is how could you do that to a little boy?”
said Brad Waite, Sherman’s brother, after the verdict.
“How could you do that to Shirlee, a grandmother who cared for
everyone and wouldn’t hurt anybody? To (Roger Brumback) as
he just answers the door? And Mary Brumback, the hell she went
through as she fought him off?
“He didn’t just kill them. It was torture.”
Prosecutors Don Kleine and Brenda Beadle said he did all of it for
a twisted reason: He couldn’t land a job, or a lasting
medical license, because of his firing from Creighton University
Medical Center by Dr. William Hunter and Dr. Brumback.
As the eventual victims went about their daily lives, Garcia
reeled — his life circling the drain.
After his arrest, detectives found a trove of evidence in his
nearly abandoned Terre Haute, Indiana, home.
In his kitchen sink were the remnants of his reeling — all the
evidence that prosecutors needed of his festering grudge.
So much stark evidence piled in and just outside the sink:
» The honest reviews of Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, one of Garcia’s bosses
in the pathology department at Creighton University
Medical Center. Bewtra labeled Garcia as disruptive, manipulative,
anti-authoritarian. She gave him essentially the
lowest possible marks, concluding that his knowledge was “very
poor,” that he “took no initiative” and “no responsibility
for his cases.”
» The rambling writings of a man with a plan: Steal the identity
of another Anthony Garcia. Stalk him. Mimic his daily
» The not-so-cryptic notes that Garcia wrote to himself. Wear
Band-Aids on your fingertips. Wear common Sears-bought
shoes. Park away from the house. And his escape plans: Rent a
boat. Hide gun in hand. Flee via Canada or the Gulf of
» And the penultimate piece of the puzzle: The June 26, 2001,
letter confirming Garcia’s termination from Creighton
University Medical Center for a series of disruptive acts,
including sabotaging another resident’s important medical
Signed by Drs. Brumback and Hunter.
Claire Hunter said her husband is an “unbelievably awarded
professor” — beloved by his students. He even had done Garcia
a favor after firing him — writing him a generic letter of
“What program directors do is you try to mentor people,” Claire
Hunter said. “For those of us who are in that business,
when you see a (generic) letter like that, you’re like ‘eh, this
is a so-so person’ ... You’re hopeful they go to the
next place and take advantage of a different environment.
“You try not to ruin their life.”
There’s no undoing the ruin that Garcia caused, she said.
Hunter said she needed to be there for the trial — to see what
happened to her youngest son, a waif of a boy with braces
and bushy brown hair.
She spent the first few days trying to avert her eyes as
prosecutors detailed Tom’s and Shirlee’s deaths.
“That awful first week ... awful, awful first week.”
She kept coming to court to see it, though. Sherman’s family also
attended every day of trial, every hearing, in fact.
Waite noted that Wednesday was the 1,200th day since Garcia’s July
15, 2013, arrest.
The Brumbacks’ children, who testified earlier in the trial,
didn’t want to attend, didn’t want their parents’ brutal
deaths to be their lasting memories.
“You have to remember for five years, we didn’t know who it was,”
Claire Hunter said. “I wanted to hear all the evidence.
I wanted to be able to make my own determination.”
“They got the right guy,” she said. “That’s all you can say. They
got the right guy.”
There was something that Brad Waite wanted to say, too.
He wanted to tell Claire Hunter how grateful he was that her
husband had fired Garcia so he couldn’t enter the medical
field and do harm there.
So, an hour after the verdict, the families of the victims
gathered in a first-floor conference room. More than 15 family
members cried and smiled and shared a bond borne of the wicked
acts of one man.
And then Kleine, Beadle and Deputy County Attorney Sean Lynch led
a trail of more than a dozen police officers into the
Among them: Omaha Police Detectives Derek Mois and Scott Warner.
Mois had testified that he and Warner never will forget
the day that they walked into the Brumbacks’ house at 11421
The two men had been among the first detectives on the scene at
the Hunters’ home in 2008.
As they soft-shoed through the bloody scene, they looked at each
other with a knowing glance: This is the work of the
Thomas Hunter-Shirlee Sherman killer or killers, they thought.
“We didn’t even know the name of the (Brumbacks) at the time,”
Together, those two and about 10 other detectives who exhaustively
worked the case — along with Police Chief Todd
Schmaderer, who formed a task force after the Brumback killings —
filed into the courthouse conference room Wednesday.
One homicide detective lagged behind, clearly spent. “I’m out of
hugs,” he said, circles under his eyes.
They opened the door.
The 15 family members — four generations of loved ones — stood and
roared with applause.
“Happy tears, this time,” Waite said.
Trial day 16 - In Anthony Garcia trial, defense and
prosecution go at it one last time before handing case to jury
By Christopher Burbach and Todd Cooper
- World-Herald staff
October 26, 2016
In the end, six hours of emotion-wringing, seat-shifting and polar
opposite closing arguments Tuesday boiled down to four
words, courtesy of our second president.
“Facts are stubborn things.”
John Adams said it.
Anthony Garcia’s defense attorney, Robert Motta Jr., pounded it as
his theme in a spirited, wide-ranging argument capping
his defense against charges that Garcia killed 11-year-old Thomas
Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman on March 13,
2008, and former boss Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both
65, on May 12, 2013.
Jurors deliberated for 3½ hours Tuesday before retiring to a
downtown hotel, where they are being sequestered. They’ll
resume deliberations this morning.
In a three-hour closing, Motta, an attorney from Chicago, said
Omaha police had no direct evidence placing Garcia at
either of the two double-slaying scenes. He accused Omaha police
of planting searches on Garcia’s phone and implied that
they planted a gun on a roadside near his home.
And then prosecutor Brenda Beadle used President Adams’ words
She repeatedly pointed to what she says are the “stubborn facts”
of this case:
» That Garcia’s motive was rooted in his ongoing frustration over
his inability to get a job or a lasting medical license
after his 2001 firing from Creighton University Medical Center by
Thomas’ father, Dr. William Hunter, and Dr. Brumback.
» That Garcia confessed to an exotic dancer that he killed a
“young boy and an old woman.”
» That Garcia was in Omaha on May 12, 2013. He tried to break into
a third doctor’s house and was thwarted. He then used
his credit card at a Wing Stop and searched for the Brumbacks’
address on his iPhone in the parking lot of the restaurant
near 72nd and Pacific Streets.
“Why is he in Omaha, all the way from Indiana, for four short
hours that day?” Beadle asked. “It’s not the wings.”
» That the kitchen sink in Garcia’s abandoned Terre Haute,
Indiana, home contained all the evidence of his quest for
revenge: the poor reviews from his bosses, the termination letter
and the bizarre writings in which he charted a way to
either end his own life or start a new one.
“Those facts are stubborn,” Beadle said.
Having presented all of that, Beadle shook her head at Motta’s
“I feel it was just the rantings of a lunatic,” she said, “and
maybe we weren’t even seeing the same trial.”
Motta took jurors through what he didn’t see: any direct evidence
placing Garcia at any of the scenes.
“No fingerprints. No fibers. No DNA.”
Motta left nothing unchallenged — including the idea that Garcia
was angry at Creighton.
He noted that Garcia had landed jobs at other medical programs
after Creighton. And, he said, prosecutors had presented
no evidence, no enraged emails after Garcia left, indicating that
he harbored any resentment toward Creighton. In fact,
he said, there’s no evidence that Garcia knew that Creighton was
“You have to have knowledge that something exists before you can
seek revenge for it,” Motta said.
Beadle called that and several of Motta’s other assertions
Two weeks before the killings of Thomas and Sherman, Beadle said,
Louisiana State University medical officials fired
Garcia from their psychiatry residency program after they
discovered that he had failed to mention on his application
anything about his termination from Creighton.
Beadle said there’s ample evidence that Garcia was flailing.
“The only time he is a big-time doctor is when he was at the
(strip) club and the deejay said, ‘Dr. Tony’s in the
house,’ ” Beadle said.
Beadle defended the credibility of Cecilia Hoffmann, the Indiana
exotic dancer who testified that Garcia confessed to her
that he had killed “an old woman and a young boy.” Hoffmann had
nothing to gain, Beadle said.
She agreed with Motta that it would be unusual for someone to hold
a grudge for 12 years, as prosecutors say Garcia did.
But Garcia, she said, is “not normal.” And she asserted that
evidence showed that he traced his spiraling career to his
firing from Creighton University Medical Center as a resident
Beadle urged jurors to discount Motta’s theories as red herrings.
As she closed her rebuttal, she showed pictures of the four
victims on a courtroom screen. In these photos, in stark
contrast to bloody crime scene pictures shown earlier in the day,
Thomas, Sherman and the Brumbacks were smiling.
“They’re the victims of Anthony J. Garcia’s twisted revenge,”
Beadle said. “Please bring justice to these families.”
In his closing argument, Motta said the only justice is a verdict
of not guilty.
Motta called the case a rush to judgment. Once police locked on
Garcia, he said, they stopped looking at anyone else.
Motta also contended that prosecutors failed to prove the
Brumbacks’ time of death, citing a defense expert’s testimony
that it couldn’t have happened while Garcia was in Omaha.
Motta implied that the authorities deliberately left out or didn’t
pursue the Brumbacks’ landline phone records or
banking records to determine whether they were alive after Garcia
“It’s either really bad police work or it’s something nefarious,”
Motta told jurors.
Beadle objected several times to things Motta said. Douglas County
District Judge Gary Randall sustained many of the
objections. Motta grew agitated as the objections mounted. At one
point, he turned and glared at Beadle and Douglas
County Attorney Don Kleine.
Motta noted that only two neighbors of the Brumbacks heard
gunshot-like noises the day that prosecutors say the couple
died, while most neighbors didn’t hear anything.
On the killings of Thomas and Sherman, Motta said neighbors who
saw a man outside the Hunters’ house the day of the
killing did not identify Garcia as that person.
“If they can’t be sure, how can you be sure?” Motta said. “Know
what they call that? Reasonable doubt.”
Motta said prosecutors had not produced emails or other evidence
of Garcia harboring hatred against his two former
bosses, Drs. Hunter and Brumback.
“To do that kind of butchery, that’s hate in your heart,” Motta
said. “In those 12 years, what did you see that was so
horrible that makes you believe that this guy would hold that much
hate in his heart for 12 years and decide he was going
to come back and kill? ... I don’t see it.”
The two things that prosecutors proved, Motta said: Garcia was a
bad resident at Creighton. And he was a strip club
“Dr. Tony was like Norm at Cheers,” Motta said of Garcia at the
strip club. “Everyone knew him when he walked in the
In a long, musing trip into the mind of an exotic dancer and her
customers, Motta argued that Hoffmann was too drunk and
high to know if Garcia said he had killed two people and that she
was seeking publicity by claiming that he had.
“‘I killed a young boy and an old lady?’” Motta said. “That’s
the worst pickup line in the history of the world.”
Prosecutors “put together a nice narrative,” he said.
“It fits,” Motta said. “Only problem is, there’s no evidence. Just
giant circumstantial leaps.”
Beadle and Kleine called it a “mountain of evidence.”
As he began his closing, Kleine pointed to a Shakespeare quote
that was among Garcia’s Internet searches: “If you wrong
us, shall we not revenge?”
“We didn’t make that up,” Kleine said. “That’s not something we
pulled out of thin air and said, ‘Let’s have a theme for
At one point, Kleine’s chin quivered as he described Dr. Hunter
“watching his little boy off for the last time” the
morning of Thomas’ death. He later showed jurors graphic photos of
the victims from the crime scenes and the autopsy
As quietly as Kleine spoke through most of his speech, the
pictures spoke loudly.
The case is about the four people who died, he said.
“These people’s lives were ended,” he said. “Their existence on
this planet is gone. They were ripped away from their
families. That’s what this case is about.”
Trial day 15 - After final attempts to poke holes in
prosecution's case, defense rests in Anthony Garcia trial
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 25, 2016
It was the last stand for Anthony Garcia’s defense team in their
battle to persuade jurors to find him not guilty.
The seven witnesses who testified Monday capped the defense’s 3½
days of testimony that sought to poke holes in the
Some witnesses were more compelling than others — and one couldn’t
Prosecutors fought back by calling three experts to the stand to
rebut the defense’s arguments.
The quadruple-murder trial that was expected to last up to six
weeks shifts to closing arguments Tuesday morning, after
about three weeks of testimony.
Then, the jury will decide Garcia’s fate.
The defense spent much of Monday — day 15 of the trial — trying to
chip away at four key elements of the prosecution’s
» The time of death of Roger and Mary Brumback. The couple’s
bodies were found on May 14. Prosecutors say they were
killed shortly after speaking with their daughter two days
earlier, on Mother’s Day.
Dr. Francisco Diaz, a forensic pathologist for the defense, said
that based on the stiffness and decomposition of the
bodies, the Brumbacks were not killed between 3 and 5 p.m. May 12,
as the prosecution contends.
“My opinion is that time frame is not feasible based on
post-mortem findings,” Diaz testified.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine contrasted how Diaz had said
it’s nearly impossible to provide a specific time of
death yet somehow was able to rule out that two-hour time span.
For the state, Dr. Michelle Elieff testified again that
post-mortem conditions can vary greatly and shouldn’t be the only
clue to determine a time of death.
“It’s a factor, it has to be used with other factors,” she said.
It is possible that the Brumbacks were killed on that Sunday
afternoon, or later that night, she said.
Garcia’s lawyers have questioned how someone could have shot the
Brumbacks on a beautiful Mother’s Day — and no one heard
it. They called three more neighbors, in addition to two last
week, who said they didn’t hear any loud noises or gunshots
Prosecutors had countered with a neighbor who did hear three shots
that Sunday afternoon.
» That a fifth homicide wasn’t connected. The defense contends
that the November 2007 killing of Joy Blanchard was
related to the March 2008 Dundee slayings of Thomas Hunter and
Shirlee Sherman. Prosecutors say that claim is baseless.
Defense Attorney Robert Motta Sr. and Chief Deputy County Attorney
Brenda Beadle clashed on whether the defense could
introduce photos of the Blanchard killing.
Judge Gary Randall ultimately allowed it.
Diaz testified that the Blanchard fatal stabbing was similar to
the Dundee slayings. Knives were left in all three
“It is suggestive that there was the same perpetrator or
perpetrators,” Diaz testified.
Omaha police officers investigated the link between the homicides
but ultimately determined it to be unfounded.
Blanchard’s nephew, Charles Simmer, is awaiting trial on a
first-degree murder charge in connection to her death.
Prosecutors pointed out differences. A banister spindle was used
as a weapon in the Blanchard case. And Blanchard’s
carotid artery and jugular vein were not severed as with both of
the Dundee killings.
Kenneth Langhorst, Blanchard’s longtime boyfriend, gave tearful
testimony about when he came upon Blanchard’s body.
He also said he didn’t know Sherman or the Hunter family. Nor did
he know a former boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter — whom
defense attorneys attempted to pinpoint as a killer.
» The idea that Garcia was the only one who could have killed.
The defense repeatedly brought up the former boyfriend of
Sherman’s daughter, whom Sherman had a protection order
Elizabeth Stiles, a friend and next-door neighbor of Sherman’s,
testified that she received a strange phone call from the
boyfriend on the day of the killing.
A ladder appeared outside the back of Sherman’s home soon after,
and remained for a couple days, Stiles testified, which
she found odd.
The ex-boyfriend bothered Sherman, Stiles said.
Of little value to the defense was the ex-boyfriend’s supervisor
in March 2008. He couldn’t recall whether the ex-boyfriend was at work on the day of the Dundee killings.
» That the magazine clip found at the Brumbacks’ house could match
a pistol that Garcia purchased.
Prosecutors called their gun expert to counter testimony from the
defense on the magazine found near the front door of
the Brumbacks’ house.
Last week, Richard Renz offered his opinion for the defense that
the scratched magazine would match a gun worn and used
daily for eight to 10 months. Garcia purchased his handgun two
months before the Brumback killings.
Omaha police senior crime lab technician Dan Bredow said any
perceived wear on the magazine was from crime-scene
investigators applying chemicals and dusting it for fingerprints,
not from extended use.
“There’s no way to determine a magazine usage by wear,” Bredow
said. “It’s not possible to do.”
However, Garcia’s lawyer Jeremy Jorgenson pointed out that Renz
based his determination on the blemishes and nicks to the
steel on the magazine, not on how dirty it was.
The day also was notable for the witnesses the defense didn’t
Forensic scientist Karl Reich had testified last week before the
judge — but outside earshot of the jury — that Garcia
couldn’t have left skin cells on doorknobs at the home of Dr.
Jorgenson hoped to call Reich again Monday to testify to that fact
with the jury present.
Such a move could have allowed prosecutors to counter Reich’s
testimony by introducing DNA results that they say connect
Garcia to the doorknobs much more convincingly. Prosecutors say
Garcia attempted to enter the Bewtra home on May 12,
As he has remained for much of the trial, Garcia stayed silent and
didn’t take the stand.
His choice to not testify wasn’t a surprise.
“It was his opinion that based on three years of incarceration,
and 23 hours per day of isolation, he was in no position to get on
the stand,” Robert Motta Jr. told Randall on Monday while the jury
was not present. “It was solely his decision.”
Trial day 14 - Motel clerk says Anthony Garcia seemed like
a typical guest on day prosecutors say Brumbacks were slain
By Alia Conley and Todd Cooper
- World-Herald staff writers
October 22, 2016
A typical guest.
That’s how Yvonne Villalpando remembers Anthony Garcia when he
checked into the West Des Moines Motel 6 on Mother’s Day
Garcia arrived hungry that evening and asked Villalpando for the
best taco spot.
He didn’t have cuts on his hands. He wasn’t bleeding. Not sweaty
A normal guy, defense attorney Robert Motta Jr. argued, not
someone who could have killed two people hours earlier, as
But even Villalpando’s testimony on the 14th day of the
quadruple-murder trial fits with the state’s theory — that
Garcia’s check-in time meant that he had plenty of time to drive
the two hours from Omaha to the motel just off
Villalpando first thought she gave Garcia his room key about 5:30
p.m. May 12, 2013 — two hours after her shift started.
But records show it was actually at 6:58 p.m.
Garcia received a call at 5:18 p.m. that pinged off a cell tower
near Atlantic, Iowa, Omaha police Detective Derek Mois
had testified last week.
Prosecutors believe Roger and Mary Brumback were killed at their
west Omaha home in the late afternoon, then Garcia
headed back to his home in Terre Haute, Indiana, staying the night
in West Des Moines.
About 30 minutes after Garcia checked in, he emerged with a small
woman with short hair and a tattoo, Villalpando
The couple left the lobby and returned about an hour later.
“I have to acknowledge everyone that passes through,” Villalpando
said. “That’s our rules.”
She figured that the woman, who wasn’t with Garcia at check-in,
was hiding at first so that Garcia could pay for one
person instead of two.
Villalpando’s testimony capped a short lineup for the defense’s
third day of testimony.
The jury could begin deliberating as early as Tuesday.
But first, they had to sit through — for the second time — an
exhaustive and complicated explanation of Garcia’s phone
and Apple iCloud records.
Officer Nick Herfordt had already testified for the state,
explaining that he found Whitepages.com searches for “Roger A.
Brumback” in the web history of Garcia’s iPhone that police
recovered from his sport utility vehicle after his arrest
July 15, 2013.
But Giovanni Masucci, a digital forensic scientist who analyzed
Herfordt’s reports on the devices and not the data
itself, testified Friday that he found “red flags” in Herfordt’s
» Proper protocol is to videotape or take photos as a forensic
examiner extracts the data, Masucci said. That was not
“It’s kind of vague, actually, his process and what he’s done,”
» Herfordt used his wiped and formatted iPhone 3G to download
Garcia’s iCloud data. But the “clean” phone still held
Herfordt’s SIM card, Masucci said, which contains text messages,
phone numbers and carrier information. That could lead
to contaminated data, he said.
» Garcia’s phone contains web searches and Wi-Fi connections on
July 27, 2013 — nearly two weeks after Garcia was
“What that tells me is somebody touched the phone after the fact
and nobody put that in the call logs,” Masucci said.
Yet during cross-examination, Masucci acknowledged that he didn’t
have the evidence property logs or chain of custody
forms in the reports he reviewed.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine argued that the defense didn’t
give Masucci all of the sufficient information in order
to make a complete conclusion.
During Masucci’s testimony, defense attorneys had searched for
“Brumback” in Herfordt’s summarized report of the data
entries. Nothing showed up.
But prosecutors downloaded the raw data and also searched for “Brumback,”
and a Whitepages entry appeared.
“You didn’t decide to look at the raw data?” Kleine asked.
“I didn’t have access,” Masucci said.
“You didn’t ask to see it, either?” Kleine pushed.
“I was tasked to look at what I was hired to look at,” Masucci
The defense hoped that two other witnesses would help bolster
their idea that the Brumbacks were killed at night or the
following day, meaning Garcia couldn’t have committed the act. A
husband and wife who live near the Brumback home said
they didn’t hear gunshots on May 12, 2013, between 3 and 5 p.m.
They also testified that their television’s volume was turned on
high for the husband’s mother, who also had a loud
The attorney acrimony that has been a staple of the Garcia trial
added another page Friday.
After jurors were dismissed, prosecutors noted that a police
report entered during their questioning of a defense expert
contained a list of evidence that Judge Gary Randall had not
allowed: namely, items from Garcia’s SUV when he was
Those items: his phone, which the expert was testifying about; a
.45-caliber gun; a crowbar; a sledgehammer; a
stethoscope; and a Louisiana State University lab coat. (FBI
agents have testified that they feared Garcia was going to
harm someone else at LSU on the day they pulled him over in
The defense hadn’t objected to that police report when it was
entered. And at the bench, defense attorney Jeremy
Jorgenson argued it was just a demonstrative exhibit, not
admissible as evidence. Randall informed him that wasn’t the
Motta accused prosecutors of “lying” and being “sleazy” in getting
the list admitted into evidence.
Motta called Kleine a “jackass.”
Hot, Kleine stepped toward Motta. The two argued.
Kleine then turned to the judge and told him to take the report
out of evidence.
Kleine said he was afraid that if the judge didn’t, Garcia will be
able to claim he has “incompetent counsel.”
“Now that was excessively mean,” Randall said.
“And him calling Don a jackass isn’t?” Beadle chimed in.
Motta: “He called me a jackass first.”
Kleine and Beadle called on Randall to reprimand Motta. The judge
had ordered Motta to sit down three times and
threatened to hold him in contempt on Thursday.
“They have lied to the court, they have lied to us,” Kleine fired
at the defense.
“Well, we think you’re liars, too,” Motta casually replied.
As the two sides continued to squabble, Randall dismissed them.
“Take it out of my courtroom if you’re going to do this,” he said.
Trial day 13 - On second day of Anthony Garcia’s defense,
his lawyers further test judge's patience
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 21, 2016
Maybe he was still stinging from a judge’s admonishment Wednesday
to tread softly while introducing evidence from a
defense DNA expert.
Maybe it was the no-love-lost relationship between the defense and
Maybe it was his earlier promise of a scorched-earth approach to
Whatever the reason, Robert Motta Jr. came out fuming and firing
Thursday during the second day of Anthony Garcia’s
defense against charges that he killed Thomas Hunter and Shirlee
Sherman in March 2008 and Dr. Roger Brumback and his
wife Mary in May 2013.
In a hearing before jurors entered the courtroom, Motta was
shouting so much about evidence he wanted to present that
Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall ordered him to sit down
three times. On the last, the judge adopted his best
“I’m going to hold you in contempt if you cannot hold your
temper,” Randall said calmly, his eyebrows raised.
And so it went Thursday — Day 13 of Garcia’s quadruple-murder
It was a day that featured far more attorney acrimony than actual
It also marked the first time in at least 15 years that a Douglas
County judge has publicly threatened to hold an
attorney in contempt during a murder trial. A recent civil trial
saw another judge caution a New York attorney that she
would strip the lawyer’s right to practice in Nebraska. But no
judge or court administrator could recall an in-court
rebuke as strong as Randall’s on Thursday.
Of course, this isn’t the first go-round between Judge Randall and
Team Motta, the Chicago attorneys Garcia hired.
Randall stripped Motta’s wife, Alison, of her ability to speak in
court or sit at the defense table after she, on the eve
of Garcia’s last-scheduled trial, told several reporters that DNA
exonerated Garcia and implicated another man in the
Hunter and Sherman killings.
Robert Motta Jr., who this summer promised a scorched-earth
approach to the case, has raised eyebrows and ire. He said he
wouldn’t apologize for making one witness cry because “this is a
life or death case.” He said a body that had been
autopsied — which Garcia botched — was as big as a Volkswagen bug.
And he has carped, loudly, about things as big as
evidentiary rulings and as small as needing a bathroom break.
Randall’s typical patient presence was tested Thursday as Motta
and co-counsel Jeremy Jorgenson launched a scattershot
In no particular order, the defense has brought up allegations
» The killings of Thomas Hunter and Sherman were connected to the
November 2007 slaying of Joy Blanchard. (The FBI and
Omaha police investigated that possibility because the killer left
knives in the victims’ necks at both scenes. However,
authorities later ruled out a connection.)
» DNA connects Charles Simmer, the nephew charged with killing
Blanchard, to the Hunter and Sherman killings. (That
allegation — which authorities say is unfounded — got Alison Motta
booted off of the case.)
» A Russian doctor who was once in Creighton’s pathology
department could have committed the killings. Motta alleged that
he was Omaha police’s prime suspect for four years.
» DNA could connect an ex-boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter to the
Hunter/Sherman death scene and the Blanchard slaying.
That last allegation was the focus of the defense’s opening salvo
to the judge Thursday.
With jurors out of earshot, Motta started the day by suggesting
that he had received a “pretty shocking” revelation that
DNA connects the ex-boyfriend to the Blanchard and Hunter scenes.
Prosecutors called that nonsense. Chief Deputy Douglas County
Attorney Brenda Beadle pointed out that the odds attached
to the ex-boyfriend’s DNA were 1 in 22 that somebody else could
have left the DNA at the Blanchard scene. In a
significant DNA test, the odds are 1 in a billion or trillion or
At that, Motta mocked prosecutors, saying that the ex-boyfriend’s
odds, however paltry, are more significant than the
odds that Garcia left his skin cells at the house of a third
Creighton pathologist on the day prosecutors say the
Brumbacks were killed.
“It’s stronger than the evidence the state has against my client,”
As the judge raised questions about the strength of his evidence,
Motta pounded the same theme, over and over: “I don’t
have to prove anything. We’re not the police. ... But I have a
right to raise these issues.”
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine disagreed. He said the defense
has to be able to make a connection between the crimes
and the purported suspects it mentions.
“We’re not saying they don’t get to raise issues,” Kleine said.
“But the tie-ins have to be reasonably specific. It can’t
just be speculation.”
On the speculation front, Kleine and Beadle complained to Judge
Randall that Garcia’s defense team continually has sprung
new theories and new witnesses, without proper notice to them.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys typically are required
to supply each other with reports about witnesses and evidence
long before trial.
At that, Motta countered that he had just gotten a couple of
binders in the case.
“Alison just texted me that she picked up (the evidence) yesterday
from Don Kleine,” he said.
“That’s nonsense,” Kleine said. “You’ve had that for months.”
“That’s a lie,” Beadle chimed in. “We haven’t talked to Alison
Motta in years. She’s not a part of this case. She was
“She’s not banned from this case,” Motta shot back.
Randall jumped in, eyeballing Motta.
“I’m not asking you to argue with them,” the judge said. “I’m
asking you to talk to me.”
Kleine then lobbed another complaint: Motta had told him two weeks
ago that he wouldn’t be using a phone expert.
Thursday, Motta told prosecutors he would be calling that expert.
“I trusted his word, which was a mistake, apparently,” Kleine
“I’ve had the (phone expert) endorsed as a witness for weeks,”
Motta countered. “He chose not to depose him.”
Kleine: “Because you said you weren’t going to call him.”
Motta shot out of his seat.
Randall: “Mr. Motta, take a deep breath.”
“I’m sick of his mouth,” Motta hollered, jabbing a finger in
Randall: “Sit down Mr. Motta. I’m going to hold you in contempt if
you cannot hold your temper.”
It wasn’t Motta’s first full-throated yelling. A week ago, on Day
8, he walked up to a witness — a former exotic dancer
who said Garcia told her he killed an “old woman and a young boy”
— and shouted so loud that Jorgenson later asked if
Motta’s “screaming could be heard in the hallway.”
But even seemingly insignificant moments have been barb-filled.
Once, Motta asked about the possibility of a pet cat at
the Hunter house.
Beadle: “Objection, speculation.”
Motta raised his palms. “This is all speculation.”
Motta: “No, I mean this case.”
Thursday, Garcia’s defense didn’t get far in its attempts to
speculate. For one, Judge Randall ruled that Motta couldn’t
suggest that the ex-boyfriend of Sherman’s daughter had something
to do with the Blanchard killing — at least not without
One of the defense’s two witnesses was virtually worthless. She
had no recollection of the day Hunter and Sherman were
The other witness was a gun and “close-quarters combat” expert who
had never testified as an expert before.
His testimony backfired a bit.
Richard Renz, a Virginia Beach man and former chief petty officer
in the U.S. Navy, said he worked in support of several
Navy SEAL teams and now trains police and soldiers to have a
Renz said he reviewed the crime-scene photos at the Brumback
house. He noted all the defensive wounds on Mary Brumback.
“It was a battle,” Renz said, his eyes swimming. “She was very
brave — very brave to be able to stay in the fight as long
as she did with those kinds of wounds.”
Jorgenson turned to the gun parts found near the Brumbacks’ bodies
— a recoil spring, a retaining loop and a magazine of
bullets. Renz said he would attribute the condition of the
magazine to extensive use over 8 to 10 months.
He said it wouldn’t be consistent with someone who had purchased
it two months earlier.
Under prosecutors’ questioning, Renz acknowledged the three gun
parts near the Brumbacks’ bodies were from a Smith &
Wesson SD9VE — the type of gun that Garcia had purchased two
months before the Brumbacks’ deaths.
Kleine: “Definitely from a Smith & Wesson SD9VE?”
Renz: “Yes, sir.”
Trial day 12 - In
opening of defense, Anthony Garcia's attorneys take aim at DNA
tests linking him to Creighton doctor's home
By Todd Cooper and Alia Conley
- World-Herald staff writers
October 20, 2016
The power of DNA is in its ability to implicate or exonerate or
It rarely is this explosive.
On Wednesday, Anthony Garcia’s attorneys opened his defense in a
quadruple-murder trial by taking dead aim at DNA tests on skin
cells that were left at the home of Creighton Dr. Chhanda Bewtra
on the same day that prosecutors say her colleague, Dr. Roger
Brumback and his wife, Mary, were killed.
A prosecution expert had said that Garcia couldn’t be ruled out as
the person who left the skin cells on the Bewtras’ back door
The defense countered with its first witness: A DNA expert ready
to state that, in his opinion, there was no way to connect Garcia
to the door handles.
Garcia “is excluded as a contributor to this sample” on the
Bewtras’ door knobs, said Karl Reich, an Illinois DNA analyst
hired by the defense. “There is no other possible conclusion.”
Jurors never got to hear that testimony.
The reason? Judge Gary Randall warned Garcia’s defense team that
if their expert made any grand conclusions that Garcia did not
leave his DNA on the Bewtras’ house, it would open the door for
prosecutors to attempt to introduce an advanced DNA analysis
indicating that he likely did.
This summer, prosecutors had given notice of their intent to
introduce a Pittsburgh company’s analysis that placed staggering
odds on Garcia being the source of the skin cells on the Bewtras’
However, at the defense’s request, Randall barred prosecutors from
doing so, in part because, he said, it risked delaying Garcia’s
trial for a fourth time.
But the judge’s ban on prosecutors using the analysis came with a
catch: He warned the defense to tread lightly in any claims
debunking the DNA tests.
He reissued that warning during a Wednesday afternoon recess — and
Garcia’s team erupted.
In court, attorney Robert Motta Jr., blasted the judge, claiming
that he was muzzling the defense’s expert. Co-counsel Jeremy
Jorgenson told the judge that he was setting himself up for
reversal on appeal, should Garcia be convicted in the March 2008
killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, and the
May 2013 deaths of the Brumbacks.
If the judge cuts “the defendant off at the knees,” Jorgenson
said, “the case ought to be and probably will be reversed on
Randall turned beet red.
“Thank you for the threat,” he said, glaring at Jorgenson.
Outside court, Motta and Jorgenson were beside themselves.
“Give me a break,” Jorgenson said. “We can’t have our scientific
expert come in and say what the science is?”
Motta said their expert is “a brilliant guy, like a true
“And we couldn’t have him say what we wanted him to say,” Motta
“Not what we wanted him to say. What the science says.”
In court, Randall said he wasn’t precluding the defense from
presenting any testimony.
“You seem to misunderstand what I’m telling you,” Randall told
Jorgenson. “You need to be prepared for prosecutors to present
The state would have disputed the defense expert’s conclusion.
Reich’s study of the DNA tests — and the difference between what’s
known as “peak heights” on the tests — led him to conclude that
there were two people’s DNA profiles on the door handles.
The state’s expert — University of Nebraska Medical Center DNA
analyst Mellissa Helligso — said she didn’t believe that there
were two people’s DNA profiles on the handles. She instead
attributed any differences in peak heights to the fact that it was
a very small DNA sample.
Wednesday’s dust-up didn’t address what the state considers more
convincing DNA evidence: a different form of DNA testing that
likely links the skin cells on the door to Garcia or a male member
of his family. The defense expert was never asked about that
Afterward, Motta and Jorgenson were sorting their options. Once
the judge excused jurors for the day, the defense had Reich issue
his opinion in order to “preserve the record for appellate
review,” Jorgenson said.
But it wasn’t heard by the people who will decide Garcia’s fate:
the six men and six women of the jury.
“It puts us in a very tough spot,” Motta said at day’s end.
Before the state closed its case midday, prosecutors presented
evidence of the tough spot that Garcia was in, in the days before
Their final two witnesses offered more insight into the life and
mind of Garcia.
Of the hundreds of papers that Omaha police officers found in a
chemical bath in the kitchen sink of Garcia’s Terre Haute,
Indiana, home, at least a dozen were highlighted by prosecutor
Omaha Police Detective Ryan Davis had collected the papers, dried
them and made copies in case the originals would further fade. A
few papers were ink-stained, others were partially waterlogged and
Some were printed documents: the termination letter from Creighton
University with Drs. Roger Brumback and William Hunter’s names
listed at the bottom and a letter from the New York State Board
for Professional Medical Conduct regarding an administrative
Several were applications for medical jobs or licenses. In at
least three instances, Garcia lied while answering questions about
» Have you ever been disciplined by a hospital staff, internship
or residency program? Garcia checked “no.”
» Has any medical license been denied or revoked? Garcia answered
» On one application for a license, Garcia wrote that he was a
resident at Creighton University and marked that he didn’t
complete the program. The reason? “Left due to illness/Migraines,”
he wrote. (Garcia was fired because of multiple unprofessional
instances, the last being that he tried to sabotage a fellow
resident who was taking an important exam.)
When he was challenged about the claims on his application, Garcia
often would become forthright. He would fess up and explain that
he was fired from residency programs at Creighton, Bassett-St.
Elizabeth and Louisiana State University.
In a letter to a Chicago doctor, Garcia asked for help to apply to
for a medical license in Kentucky.
“Unfortunately I do not have very many friends and colleagues that
can help me fill out the Reference Form they require,” Garcia
wrote on June 2, 2011.
But most eye-opening were the many cryptic and handwritten notes
in Garcia’s familiar fourth-grader scrawl (and spelling).
The scratchings were somewhat meticulous but at the same time,
random and disjointed — to-do lists of sorts, with many items
crossed out. It seemed Garcia was trying to get his affairs in
order with mentions of selling his cars, refinancing his mortgage
and possibly canceling insurance policies.
One page starts as a grocery list: “Brocholi (sic), Butter, Shrimp
Scampi, Steak- Rib Eye.”
Then the list jumps to strange items: “common shoes, Sears Black,
Disposable” and “Band Aids on tips of fingers (Door Bell), (Black
Another note references odd actions: “Tie knees. Tie Arms to
sides. Blindfold - Teeshirt Torso.”
Yet another contains a reminder to call the Omaha Police
Department on July 1, 2013. It was unclear why.
He also listed his penchant for Shrek movies — listed three times
on various notes.
Many writings referenced a fake driver’s license and a plot to
steal someone’s identity: “Apply or get a credit card in someone
Motta questioned the relevance of the notes, which he
sarcastically called “this devastating list of horrible things.”
Motta asked Davis if he found evidence that Garcia had obtained
any fake driver’s licenses, or if police had investigated identity
No, Davis responded.
“You didn’t find any of those things in real life?” Motta asked.
Some of the documents, Motta argued, showed that Garcia told the
“He was actually pretty honest, in the affidavit; didn’t it appear
that way?” Motta asked, referencing when Garcia admitted his
About a dozen handwritten notes found in an LSU bag in Garcia’s
Mercedes Benz by Omaha police forensic technician Amanda Miller
referenced apparent plans to rent a boat, buy fishing gear to
“look like a Fisherman” and travel to New Orleans,
Canada or the Gulf of Mexico.
He planned exactly what would be in his hands.
In his right hand? A “hidden” gun.
His left? His phone, passport and other documents. And “Poison
Also in the bag: a letter to his parents Estella and Frederick in
Walnut, California, dated July 13, 2013 — two days before Garcia
“Please hold these documents in case of an Emergency.
During much of the testimony and lawyer bantering Wednesday,
Garcia wrote in tiny print on the top half of a piece of paper.
At the end of the day, he folded up the paper and held it in his
He looked back to the gallery.
His parents weren’t there.
They had attended the first five days. They haven’t been back for
nearly two weeks.
Trial day 11 - In Anthony Garcia's home, detectives find
evidence of a man trying to make his old life disappear
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 19, 2016
Anthony Garcia’s split-level home was spartan.
So sparse, so spare, that photos of the home scream of a man in
transition, perhaps a permanent one.
Drawers were left open and empty. Closets, clean and clear. Pantry
shelves were bare. A wet-dry vacuum sat alone in the dining room.
In the master bedroom: a blue air mattress on the floor, no
sheets, no blankets.
As Omaha Police Detectives Ryan Davis and Nick Herfordt combed the
home after Garcia’s arrest in July 2013, they saw signs of a man
who had put his affairs in order.
On a living-room table were eight stacks of paper. The important
documents of Garcia’s life.
The deed for the house that Garcia was about to lose to
foreclosure. The title to the Mercedes SUV that Garcia had driven
on Interstate 57 to southern Illinois, where he was arrested.
Garcia’s birth certificate. His house insurance policy. His
medical license from Illinois — the only lasting one he ever
obtained after his firing from Creighton University Medical Center
All piled in perfect formation on the marble-tile tabletop.
And then the detectives sniffed something amiss. Something
pungent, in the kitchen.
“It was nauseating,” Davis said.
A black garbage bag had been plopped into water in the kitchen
sink. Some kind of chemical had been poured inside the bag.
After photographing it, detectives opened up the bag.
Inside, they found what authorities would later classify as the
reasons for Garcia’s revenge. The poor reviews he got from Dr.
Chhanda Bewtra, his former supervisor at Creighton. His June 26,
2001, termination letter with the signatures of Dr. William Hunter
and Dr. Roger Brumback — the two Creighton pathologists
prosecutors say he targeted.
And this: a yellow piece of legal paper with Garcia’s
characteristic chicken scratch.
On it, a plan. Go to the home of another Anthony Garcia in
suburban Indianapolis. “Arrive about 10:30 a.m. (when no one is
around),” the note said. “Steal pertinent mail from mailbox. Where
they shop. Super market, mall, movies ... And shop with their
stolen info/credit cards/ATM cards only at those places ... Take
out loans, credit cards, ect (sic) with their info ... Follow him
to work, ect (sic).”
What’s clear from the red-streaked, chemical-smeared plan is this:
Garcia hoped any trace of his former life would disappear. One way
or the other.
Day 11 of Garcia’s trial ventured from the naturally faded
receipts Garcia kept from March 2008 — when Thomas Hunter, 11, and
Shirlee Sherman, 57 were killed — to the chemically altered
documents left behind in his Terre Haute home.
Tuesday’s testimony — prosecutors have one more witness today
before the defense begins presenting its case — proved the adage:
Big cases are built with little things.
Little things like:
» Receipts and bank records that showed an empty day on Garcia’s
March 13, 2008, calendar — the same day that Thomas and Sherman
were killed at the Hunters’ Dundee home.
» Neighbors’ descriptions of a suspicious olive-skinned man and
his silver CRV that day near the Hunters’ home.
» Parts of a gun — a spring, three inches long, and retaining
loop, smaller than a dime — found at the home of Dr. Roger and
Mary Brumback in May 2013.
» The frame of a broken gun found near an Illinois highway 580
miles from the Brumbacks’ residence and 16 miles from Garcia’s
home in August 2013.
» An empty gun box found in Garcia’s home, with the same serial
number as the frame found near the highway.
» Internet searches on Garcia’s phone for the address of Dr.
Brumback on the same May 2013 day that prosecutors believe the
Brumbacks were killed.
» Trace evidence of skin cells on the door handle of Bewtra’s
home, which prosecutors allege Garcia tried to break into.
» A wayward comment Garcia made to a stripper, suggesting that he
was a bad boy because he had killed an “old woman and a young
Even as evidence mounted, Garcia was at his most active Tuesday.
In the morning, he laughed and nodded as his attorney, Robert
Motta Jr., poked away at prosecutors’ contention that his
otherwise busy calendar was empty on a critical day: March 13,
Omaha police found a treasure trove of potential evidence when a
team went to search the Walnut, California, home of Frederick and
In the garage was a duffel bag and stacks of financial records,
store receipts and ATM slips that Anthony Garcia had diligently
Omaha Police Detective Doug Herout sifted through the bundles of
receipts and bank records and found that Garcia had multiple
expenditures on most days in March.
On March 12, 2008, he withdrew $300 from his Shreveport,
Louisiana, bank. And he made a $6.99 purchase at a Pep Boys auto
parts store near Shreveport.
The purchase: A “smoke” shade to cover a license plate.
The purpose: “It makes it difficult to read the plate,” Herout
Prosecutor Brenda Beadle suggested that Garcia did so to conceal
his license plate in Omaha. He also wanted to conceal his
movements, Beadle said.
So, she said, he withdrew bundles of cash.
She also pointed to what she described as another curious
purchase: Garcia’s March 17, 2008, trip to a Honda dealer in
Shreveport to purchase a new set of floor mats.
Beadle: “Say they get some thing on their floor mat — oh I don’t
know, blood — might they need new floor mats?”
Motta left little unchallenged. He said Garcia’s purchases of
floor mats, a fuel cap and a tire show nothing more than “car
He pointed to Garcia’s 2008 date book, which had a doctor’s
appointment listed on March 13, 2008. (Prosecutors say that doctor
lives in California and there’s no evidence of an appointment.)
Motta noted that Garcia’s receipts showed no activity on five
other days in March, in addition to March 13.
Motta made a rare acknowledgment — that credit-card receipts put
Garcia in Omaha on May 12, 2013, the day prosecutors say the
“But nothing puts him in Omaha on March 13, 2008,” Motta said.
Motta also noted that Garcia had withdrawn cash, sometimes $300,
on several other days in March: the 1st, 4th, 14th, 24th, 27th.
Motta offered a reason: Garcia was a casino connoisseur. His bank
records show several trips to casinos in the Shreveport area.
“What do you need to gamble?” Motta asked Herout. “Chips. And you
get chips with cash, right?”
At that, Garcia lowered his chin to his chest and chuckled — the
first time he has shown any emotion in the trial.
Motta offered another reason for all the cash.
“My client likes to go to strip clubs,” Motta said.
Garcia didn’t laugh at that one. But that didn’t stop the
“My wife is here and unfortunately, I have to admit, I have been
to strip clubs,” Motta Jr. said. “It’s no secret that (strip-club)
ATMs charge a premium to withdraw cash.”
Hence Garcia’s withdrawals from his bank before he went, Motta
From her front-row perch, Alison Motta smiled and shook her head.
Alison Motta, who made her first appearance in the courtroom
Monday, spent most of Tuesday frantically leaning over a courtroom
railing, passing notes, legal rulings and
advice to her husband.
At one point, Alison Motta muttered an objection that Jeremy
Jorgenson, another of Garcia’s attorneys, repeated verbatim.
At another point, Judge Gary Randall shushed her. Randall barred
Alison Motta from sitting at the defense table or having a
speaking role in the case after out-of-court comments she made,
“Counsel, you’re going to need to wait for a break,” Randall
called out to her and her husband. “This is distracting.”
Earlier, Jorgenson had tried to counter prosecutors’ contention
that Garcia was fueled by his festering job frustration.
In addition to the searches of the Brumbacks’ and Bewtras’
addresses, Jorgenson noted that Garcia’s phone and digital tablet
showed that he had job leads.
He pointed out that in the days immediately before May 12, 2013,
Garcia had applied online for jobs at the American Society of
Microbiology and at Chicago’s Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine
“It’s true that there was not only Dr. Garcia’s interest in
employment, but employers showing interest back?” Jorgenson asked
“Yes,” the detective said.
Jorgenson also suggested that the online searches for the names of
Brumback and his colleague related to getting references for his
“You have to have names and references, you have to reach out and
get reference letters, etc., etc., etc.,” Jorgenson said.
Tuesday’s etceteras weren’t good for Garcia.
Prosecutors closed the day with the walk-through of Garcia’s Terre
Detectives found one other note, under the living-room table that
held all of his life documents.
Scratched out in what appears to be Garcia’s elementary-school
scrawl is an ode of sorts, similar to lines from a 2012 Liam
Neeson movie, “The Grey.”
“Into the fight we go,” the note said.
As Davis detailed that and the other writings Garcia left behind
in his home, some jurors scribbled furiously. Others not at all.
Then there was Garcia.
The 43-year-old defendant tilted his head back and to the right
and closed his eyes for Davis’ testimony.
But this time — unlike the other times that the defendant has
nodded off only to snap awake — Garcia’s head didn’t bob.
Instead, he swiveled in his chair, back and forth, back and forth,
his eyes still closed.
He wasn’t asleep.
He just wasn’t looking.
Trial day 10 - FBI agents scrambled to arrest Anthony
Garcia after tracking him to hotel
By Alia Conley and Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writers
October 18, 2016
Anthony Garcia briefly eluded FBI agents who were monitoring him
in 2013 simply because he woke up earlier than they did.
On the evening of July 14, two agents from Omaha and three from
Springfield, Illinois, congregated at a hotel across the street
from where Garcia was staying in Salem, Illinois. The agents went
over plans to follow and potentially arrest him the next day, and
they headed to bed about 1 a.m.
Special agent Kevin Hytrek told everyone to get some sleep.
“I was more concerned about the next day, being up all day and
into the night,” he testified Monday during Garcia’s quadruple
murder trial. He told them, “Be ready to start driving in the
He awoke three minutes before his 5 a.m. alarm to check on Garcia.
When he looked out the window, he saw that Garcia’s SUV was gone.
The scramble to find Garcia that July 2013 morning was more
dramatic than Hytrek let on in his testimony.
Hytrek’s partner, Jonathan Robitaille, had testified in earlier
hearings to a frenzied situation:
Authorities were able to “ping” Garcia’s phone every 30 minutes
for his GPS location because of a search warrant.
The first ping that morning registered to the hotel parking lot.
As the agents waited for the next ping, they zoomed south on
Interstate 57 at speeds of 100 mph, frantically looking for
Garcia’s next ping? Thirty minutes behind them. They had passed
Hytrek turned around, Robitaille spotted Garcia’s SUV, and the two
tailed it until state troopers made an arrest near Jonesboro,
Illinois, near the state line.
Asked where he was headed, Garcia said New Orleans.
Investigators said they believed that Garcia was headed to
Louisiana State University to harm people there.
Garcia was fired from a residency program at LSU on Feb. 26, 2008
— 17 days before Thomas and Sherman were found dead.
But because of a judge’s order, jurors don’t know where Garcia
might have been headed or what additional items authorities found
in Garcia’s vehicle.
Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois testified Friday that
investigators recovered a black iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy tablet
from inside Garcia’s SUV.
Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall barred Mois from
telling jurors what else police found inside the SUV: a crowbar, a
sledgehammer, an unloaded .45 caliber handgun, a package of .45
caliber bullets. And an LSU lab coat from his
days in Shreveport, Louisiana.
At the defense’s request, Randall didn’t allow jurors to hear
testimony about the SUV’s contents or Garcia’s comments to the
Judges sometimes won’t allow testimony about evidence if it
concerns uncharged crimes. Garcia has not been charged with any
crime involving LSU.
Garcia’s LSU connection was apparent on the silver Honda CRV that
he used to own — evidence photos displayed Monday showed a bright
blue bumper sticker that said “LSU Health Sciences Center.”
Teresa Negron, a retired Omaha police sergeant, led the task force
team that went to Garcia’s childhood home in Walnut, California,
to execute search warrants on the home and the Honda CRV that his
parents by then possessed. The CRV is similar in appearance to a
vehicle spotted outside the Hunters’ home in 2008, when Thomas
Hunter and Sherman were killed.
Garcia’s mother, Estella Garcia, assisted officers by driving the
Honda CRV — now with California plates — to a secure facility in
California so police could examine it.
Authorities took a box of papers from the Garcia home back to
Omaha. Among them were ATM withdrawal receipts on March 12 and
March 14, 2008, for $300 each. Prosecutors think Garcia withdrew a
large amount of cash to use when he traveled to Omaha to commit
the March 13, 2008, slayings of Sherman and Thomas Hunter.
At one point Monday, the Garcia trial invoked another child death:
The 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant
contestant who was killed in her Boulder, Colorado, home.
Garcia’s attorney, Robert Motta Sr., said the defense hired a
nationally known coroner, Dr. Werner Spitz, to testify about the
timing of the Brumbacks’ deaths. Spitz was expected to give his
opinion that the Brumbacks were killed later than when prosecutors
say they were.
However, Spitz said in a couple of recent CBS reports that he
thinks JonBenet was killed by her then-9-year-old brother, perhaps
by hitting her in the head with a flashlight. JonBenet’s brother,
Burke Ramsey, is suing Spitz and others for $150 million. As a
result, Spitz’s attorney won’t allow him to testify in the Garcia
To try to salvage Spitz’s appearance, Motta Sr. asked Randall to
order prosecutors to not mention Spitz’s involvement in the
JonBenet Ramsey case.
Randall refused to limit prosecutors. He said any opinions that
Spitz has given are fair game.
“The other problem we have, Your Honor, is his attorney will not
let him testify,” Motta Sr. said.
“Too bad,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said.
Randall: “I don’t know how I can address that issue.”
Monday’s testimony also included the account of an Indiana truck
driver who found a piece of the gun that authorities believe was
used to shoot Dr. Roger Brumback. Like so much in this case, the
discovery had its unusual elements.
Gary Gooding, in his 18-wheeler transporting goods for the United
Parcel Service, often stopped at a favorite patch of road on an
entrance ramp to eastbound I-70.
Gooding wasn’t driving on Aug. 2, 2013, but instead training an
employee — something he has done only a handful of times in his 17
years with UPS, he testified Monday. Usually, he drove his route
Gooding and the trainee stopped on that familiar entrance ramp,
and Gooding got out of the passenger side. He stepped on the
shoulder of the ramp and saw part of a gun in a gravel area near
He called 911 because it was “the right thing to do,” he testified
“It was a fluke,” Gooding said, explaining that if he would have
been driving, he’d stand in front of his truck, not the opposite
side. “If I wasn’t in the passenger seat, I never would have
spotted that gun.”
The serial number on the gun matches a pistol that Garcia
purchased in March 2013. Prosecutors say that handgun is the type
of firearm that was used to kill Brumback in May 2013, about two
months before Gooding’s discovery. The entrance ramp where Gooding
found it? Ten miles west of Terre Haute, Indiana, where Garcia
used to live.
During long and draining afternoon testimony, Officer Nick
Herfordt explained how he extracted data from Garcia’s iPhone and
tablet and analyzed his web browsing history.
Defense attorney Jeremy Jorgenson had filed a motion to suppress
evidence from Garcia’s iCloud account because he said the data was
subject to “manipulation, contamination or fault in transmission.”
Randall denied the motion.
Jorgenson objected dozens of times during Herfordt’s testimony.
“It’s still overruled,” Randall repeated.
Cross-examination of Herfordt is set to continue today.
Herfordt testified that Garcia’s devices had been used to search
for “Roger A Brumback,” “Chhanda Bewtra” and “Aruna Bewtra,”
Chhanda’s daughter, on whitepages.com. Dr. Chhanda Bewtra was
among Garcia’s supervisors at Creighton.
Driving directions to Omaha and the address for Bewtra’s home were
searched on May 10, 2013. Her home alarm went off on May 12,
signaling a possible break-in. Also that Sunday, a search was made
on Garcia’s iPhone for the Brumbacks’ address at 2:57 p.m., less
than an hour before prosecutors think the Brumbacks were killed.
Herfordt could search Garcia’s data for various terms, which is
how he instantly found Roger Brumback’s name.
So, Herfordt tried another term.
“Based on the way the investigation was shaping up,” Herfordt
testified, he searched Garcia’s iPhone’s data for “revenge.”
Google search results popped up from Feb. 23, 2013 — nearly three
months after Indiana denied Garcia’s application for a medical
In the search bar, a variation of a line from Shakespeare:
“Shall I not revenge.”
Trial day 9 - Detective tells jurors how Anthony Garcia
went from being a name on a file to the prime suspect
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 15, 2016
Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois had reached a dead end in
identifying a probable serial killer.
So Mois told his sergeant that he was ready for an additional
assignment, hoping for another breadcrumb that might lead him down
a trail to the suspect.
He was given a binder of documents — one of dozens collected from
the Creighton University Medical Center’s pathology department
It was the residency files of Anthony Garcia.
One of the first items that Mois noted? Garcia’s termination
letter, signed by Dr. Roger Brumback and Dr. William Hunter.
“After I reviewed the book, I thought it was very reasonable that
it could be potential motives for those crimes,” he said Friday
during day nine of testimony in Garcia’s quadruple-murder trial.
Roughly two weeks after the May 2013 killings of Roger and Mary
Brumback, Mois had a viable suspect name. It would take nearly two
more months of detective work to gather enough evidence to arrest
In court, Mois laid out his exhaustive efforts to secure search
warrants and issue subpoenas for the police investigation into
Mois was part of a 21-member task force created by Police Chief
Todd Schmaderer four days after the Brumbacks were found dead on
May 14, 2013. Police suspected that there was a link among a
double slaying at Hunter’s Dundee home in 2008, the killings of
the Brumbacks and an attempted break-in at Dr. Chhanda Bewtra’s
home the same weekend the Brumbacks were likely killed. The group
was tasked with finding the person or people responsible.
The three doctors connected to the crimes — Hunter, Roger Brumback
and Bewtra — had a Creighton University pathology department link,
so numerous files were pulled and officers began to pore over
Receiving Garcia’s binder was seemingly arbitrary, but as Mois dug
deeper into Garcia’s history and records, he discovered more and
more breadcrumbs that led him to believe that Garcia could have
» A silver 2000 Honda CRV was registered to him at his Shreveport,
Louisiana, address from 2007 to 2009. A handful of neighbors
testified that they saw a man with olive skin drive a silver Honda
CRV with non-Nebraska plates in their Dundee neighborhood on March
13, 2008, when Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, were
» AT&T phone records indicated that he received an incoming call
at 5:18 p.m. on May 12, 2013. The closest cell tower? Atlantic,
Iowa — about an hour east of Omaha. “It told us it was conceivable
that Mr. Garcia was in Omaha that day,” Mois testified.
» His financial records from Regents Bank showed purchases in and
around Omaha on the day that authorities believe the Brumbacks
were killed. A 12:38 p.m. purchase of a case of Bud Light at a
Council Bluffs Casey’s General Store. Lunch at Wingstop at 72nd
and Pacific Streets at 2:28 p.m. — about a five-minute drive from
the Bewtra residence, Mois testified.
» A Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol that Garcia purchased in March 2013
at the Gander Mountain in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“We felt we had a significant amount of information suggesting
that Garcia was responsible for the crimes,” Mois testified.
The task force split into two teams. One went to Walnut,
California, to secure the Honda CRV, which was in Garcia’s
parents’ possession, while Mois’ team went to Terre Haute,
planning to arrest Garcia.
About 10 officers flew to Indianapolis and headed to Garcia’s
residence. A couple of FBI agents drove.
But authorities then learned by monitoring Garcia’s cellphone that
he was near Jonesboro, Illinois. Mois contacted the FBI agents,
who coordinated with Illinois State Police to arrest Garcia on
July 14, 2013.
Police recovered a black iPhone and a Samsung tablet in Garcia’s
More than a year later, Mois was still stumped on one piece of
evidence: the gun used to shoot Brumback.
He did a search on a national database for lost or stolen firearms
to see whether other law enforcement agencies had run the serial
number that belonged to the pistol that Garcia had purchased.
Kurt Callahan, then a deputy sheriff in Clark County, Illinois,
had run the number. It matched the bottom part of a gun that was
found on Aug. 2, 2013, on the shoulder of an entrance ramp to
Interstate 57 — two miles from the Indiana
state line and nine miles from Terre Haute.
Defense attorney Robert Motta Jr. hammered Mois during a
three-hour cross examination on crime-scene and motive
Motta asked if there was any evidence to connect the gun magazine
left at the Brumbacks’ home with the gun that Garcia owned. No,
Motta became agitated at objections from prosecutor Brenda Beadle,
but Mois continued his unwavering and polite testimony in a calm
“Do you think it might have been helpful to interview (Garcia) to
see if he had a legitimate reason to be in Omaha?” Motta asked,
pressing Mois on why Garcia was not interviewed by police before
his arrest but other persons of interest were. “That decision to
interview that person is going to be case-to-case,” Mois said.
One of Motta’s last questions drew groans from courtroom attendees
and wide eyes from the jury.
“Didn’t a bunch of you guys get medals from the mayor?” Motta
asked. “If my client’s acquitted, are you going to have to give
that medal back?”
Judge Gary Randall sustained Beadle’s objection.
In a courtroom pew was Claire Hunter, mother of 11-year-old
“Oh, c’mon,” she said.
An illustration shown Friday depicted Mois’ theory of Roger
Brumback’s likely position when he was shot in the right shoulder.
Brumback is hunched over, opening the storm door and standing in
front of the main front door.
The bullet comes from below, from someone on the porch or stairs.
It exits Brumback’s body, rockets through the door and hits high
on a hallway wall.
Following the state’s theory, Brumback was ambushed by gunfire as
he opened his door. He hardly had time to react.
Hours before the Brumbacks were killed, at 12:57 p.m., someone had
searched for “Roger A. Brumback” in Omaha on whitepages.com from
Prosecutors are expected to present evidence next week that it was
Garcia’s iPhone — the same phone recovered in his car when he was
Other searches that prosecutors plan to connect to Garcia:
“Chhanda Bewtra,” from a desktop computer on April 30. And, on May
10, “Aruna Bewtra,” Bewtra’s then-33-year-old daughter.
“What better way to revenge a harm than to kill someone’s child?”
Beadle asked, her two teenage daughters sitting directly behind
her observing the trial.
“I would agree,” Mois said.
Trial day 8 - Ex-dancer says she told Garcia she liked
'bad boys,' and he responded by saying he killed 2 people
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 14, 2016
When Anthony Garcia walked into the room in Terre Haute, Indiana,
the music would stop.
The emcee would lean into the microphone.
“Hey, everyone,” he’d bellow. “Let’s welcome Dr. Tony to the
This wasn’t a meeting of the Greater Terre Haute Medical Society.
Or the annual ball at Terre Haute Country Club.
It was Club Koyote — a strip club where Garcia made his rounds two
to three times a week.
And it was that one-story, tan-clapboard building that produced
the critical witness who connects Garcia to the 2008 killings of
Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57:
Cecilia Hoffmann, a former exotic dancer and current Red Lobster
In the most dramatic testimony of Garcia’s trial — one that ended
with Garcia’s attorney shouting and Hoffmann in tears — the
26-year-old woman took the stand Thursday and told jurors that she
had tried to distance herself from her best customer, “Dr. Tony,”
by telling him that she only dated bad boys.
“He said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve killed people before,’” Hoffmann
said. “I said, ‘Oh, please, you’ve never killed anybody.’”
The young woman looked down. She wrapped her long hair behind an
“He said he had,” Hoffmann recounted. “I said, ‘All right, well,
tell me about it.’”
“He goes, ‘Well, it was an old woman and a young boy.’”
The comment was so creepy, so off-kilter, that Hoffmann dropped
it. She believed that Garcia was just being his usual odd self.
“At the time, I thought, ‘This is the reason I’m not talking to
you (anymore),’” Hoffmann said. “‘Because even your jokes are
Authorities say it was no joke, it was a confession. And while
several items point to Garcia being in Omaha on the May 2013 day
that Roger and Mary Brumback were killed, Hoffmann may provide
prosecutors their strongest connection to the
killings of Thomas and Sherman.
Garcia’s defense attorneys were so concerned about her testimony
that they asked for an extended lunch break to prepare for her
A thin woman with reddish brown hair, Hoffmann testified to her
nine-month “relationship” with Garcia from 2012 to early 2013.
In court, the 43-year-old defendant, a former resident at the
Creighton University Medical Center, has ventured from pensive to
sleepy to prickly. Earlier this week he told a sheriff’s deputy
that he had a cold. He then admonished the deputy after receiving
just three tissues rather than the entire Kleenex box. “Do you
know what a cold is?” Garcia snapped.
Hoffmann’s testimony painted a different picture of Garcia.
At the club, Hoffmann said, Garcia was gregarious. He flashed cash
and flaunted his medical degree, telling everyone to call him “Dr.
Everyone did — even the DJ during his impromptu announcements of
Garcia’s arrival, she said.
Dr. Tony told anyone who would listen of his work at an Illinois
prison, just across the border from Terre Haute. He was outgoing
and engaging — the life of the strip club, Hoffmann said.
“He was always laughing,” she testified. “He was really funny. We
would joke around a lot. He joked around with a lot of the girls.”
Even so, Hoffmann said, there was something strange about that
larger-than-life persona. Most of her customers didn’t want anyone
to know they were at a strip club. She said it would take months
for her to find out, for example, that one of her regulars was a
real-estate agent; another, a cop.
Not Dr. Tony.
“He liked to flaunt that he was a doctor,” Hoffmann said. “He
wanted everyone to know that he was a doctor — that he had nice
things, that he had a nice life.”
Prosecutor Brenda Beadle, who has noted that Garcia declared
bankruptcy and his Terre Haute house was in foreclosure, asked:
“Did you actually have proof he had a nice life?”
“I would assume that he did,” Hoffmann said. “He had a lot of
money to spend on us.”
Hoffmann —who first went by the stage name Ryder, then Charity —
admitted that she took advantage of that. A handful of times she
texted Garcia, asking him to take her to her favorite restaurant,
He would always oblige. She wasn’t interested in dating him, she
said. She just wanted a free meal.
“That’s just the type of person I was then,” Hoffmann said,
looking down. “I was obviously dancing. I was addicted to drugs. I
drank a lot. It was just not a very stable time of my life. Not
proud of it.”
Later, Garcia attorney Robert Motta Jr. asked her: “Nobody wants
to be a stripper, right?”
Hoffmann: “You’d be surprised.”
Hoffmann said she didn’t enjoy the job, but some did. In addition
to their looks, Hoffmann said, she and her fellow dancers sold
attention and affection, often competing to land big spenders like
Garcia would drop $100 a night at the club — drinking heavily,
buying Hoffmann drinks and paying for private dances in a VIP
“As soon as he would come in I would leave whatever I was doing,”
she said. “He would always give me compliments — how pretty I was
— which would boost my self-esteem. He was actually very nice.”
That said, aspects of Garcia gave her pause.
“There was definitely something about him that you could just tell
was off,” she said. “Just this look in his eye or this face behind
At times, Hoffmann said, Garcia was bizarre. Once he got down on
one knee and proposed to her, with an “invisible ring.” The DJ
called out: “Congratulations, Ryder and Tony, on your engagement,”
Later, he told Hoffmann that he had a dream that she had his baby.
She politely laughed. Then Garcia pounded the dream story into the
ground, mentioning it every time he came to the club for a few
weeks, she said. “It definitely started
Then there was the alleged confession. One night, as Hoffmann took
a smoke break outside the club, Garcia joined her.
Garcia had been pressing Hoffmann to date him. He had tried to
kiss her after one of their Olive Garden dinners. She fended him
off by telling him “I don’t feel like we’re ready yet.”
Hoffmann said she knew it was time to break away from Garcia. But
she had to be gentle.
“Regulars, they start to wear themselves out,” Hoffmann said.
“You’ve got to let them go. Let another dancer take over.”
So, “I told him, ‘You’re too good for me. You’re a good guy.
You’re a doctor. I’m a bad girl. I like bad boys.’”
“He said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve killed people before.’”
When she doubted him, he offered up that it was “an old woman and
a young boy.”
Hoffmann cast Garcia’s comment as just another weird non sequitur
in their joking jabber.
So she went along with it.
She asked Garcia: “Why did you do it?”
“He said, ‘They deserved it — well, maybe they didn’t deserve it,
but I had to, and I feel bad.’”
As she testified, Garcia rarely looked Hoffmann’s way. His
attorneys, on the other hand, were locked on Hoffmann from the
minute she stepped into the courtroom.
Attorney Jeremy Jorgenson whipped around as she sat in the gallery
before the morning session started. He leaned across the railing
separating the front of the courtroom from the gallery.
“Is that Cecilia?” he asked. A private detective nodded.
After prosecutors questioned Hoffmann, Motta Jr. and Jorgenson
asked for a recess to prepare their own questions.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine objected. “So let me get this
straight,” he said, “we’re going to take a recess because they’re
Judge Gary Randall granted the delay.
After a lunch break of an hour and 45 minutes, Garcia’s defense
team tried to chip away at Hoffmann. Motta Jr. pointed out that
her former business involves “deception” — lying by feigning
interest in customers. She acknowledged that she drank a lot and
used drugs. He noted that she had been charged with possessing
methamphetamine and suggested that she got sober only because of a
He then turned to an interview of Hoffmann conducted by his law
firm’s private detective.
Hoffmann said she was caught off guard at her home in Terre Haute.
In 2015 a man came to her door, flashed a badge and started asking
questions about the comments that she said Garcia made.
“I can’t stand by anything I said or did in that time of my life,”
she told the private detective. “Maybe I misheard what (Garcia)
said. I thought he said something, but now I just think it’s too
long and I wasn’t in the right state of mind to hear what he
Prosecutor Beadle said Hoffmann made those comments only after the
private detective manipulated her. In fiery questioning, Beadle
pointed out that the detective had told Hoffmann that prosecutors
had a lot of witnesses and that Hoffmann wouldn’t be needed.
Hoffmann said she never recanted her report of what Garcia said.
“I thought he was giving me an out,” she said. “I was hoping I
wouldn’t have to do this.”
“He put a lot of words in your mouth, didn’t he?” Beadle said.
“Exactly,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann said the private detective — who stands more than
6-foot-6 — had intimidated her and made her feel uncomfortable.
How did you feel? Beadle asked.
“I was terrified,” she said.
At that, Motta marched up to Hoffmann. His voice built into a
shout so loud that his co-counsel later questioned whether Motta’s
“screaming” could be heard in the hallway.
“You mean to tell me you’re terrified of this man,” Motta said,
thumbing in the direction of his private detective. “But you’re
NOT SCARED OF SOME MAN AT A STRIP CLUB SAYING HE KILLED SOMEONE?
THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT THIS JURY TO BELIEVE?”
Beadle shot out of her seat.
“Objection!” she hollered. “He doesn’t get to yell at my witness.”
Teary-eyed, Hoffmann quietly answered Motta’s question.
“I’m saying when a pervert in a strip club told me a joke, it
didn’t scare me,” she said.
At that, Hoffmann took a tissue and dabbed at her mascara.
Judge Randall admonished Motta to sit down. Several jurors
squirmed. One juror, a young woman, shot a cold stare at the
After Motta’s outburst, the case went from furious to tedious.
Through credit cards and phone records, prosecutors traced
Garcia’s movements from Indiana to Omaha and back to Indiana on
the weekend that the Brumbacks were killed. A surveillance video
showed him at a Casey’s General Store in Council Bluffs.
Prosecutors also presented evidence of his earlier purchase of a 9
mm gun — a gun that prosecutors allege Garcia used in the
All of it paled in comparison to Hoffmann’s testimony.
Motta later said that he didn’t feel bad about making the woman
cry. The Chicagoan previously has said he would take a
scorched-earth strategy to this case because he doesn’t usually
practice here. “This is a life-or-death case,” he told reporters,
“and she’s saying things I don’t necessarily believe are true.”
Hoffmann insisted that she was telling the truth. She said she
didn’t report Garcia’s comments to authorities at the time because
she thought they were a joke and the comments were so random.
Plus, her life was a mess.
She since has sobered up, kicking her addiction to alcohol,
prescription pills and meth. She has a job and two children. She
said she’s been contacted by reporters so much that she had to
change her phone number. In short, she said, she had no reason to
concoct this confession.
With the benefit of time and sobriety, Hoffmann said, she has
looked back on that strange exchange several times.
There was one thing she couldn’t get past. If he was full of
bluster, she said, Garcia could have said he had killed some bad
guys or killed someone in self-defense.
Instead, she said, he told her he killed an “old woman and a young
Her response to him that night:
“That sounds like the two most innocent people in the world.”
Trial day 7 - After dead woman’s face was disfigured,
attempt to sabotage medical resident was last straw for Garcia at
Creighton, witness says
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 12, 2016
A potential public relations disaster that embarrassed the
Creighton University pathology department and infuriated the
family of a deceased woman and a funeral home prompted officials
to suggest to Anthony Garcia that he transfer to another residency
Garcia’s actions — or inaction — led to the disfigurement of a
dead woman’s face before her funeral.
The first-year Creighton resident had correctly completed an
autopsy of the woman in February 2001, Dr. William Hunter
testified Wednesday. As a presiding doctor left, Garcia and an
assistant were entrusted to return the body to the
The woman weighed more than 350 pounds. So Garcia helped the
assistant by rolling the woman’s body from the operating room
table to the gurney, ending facedown.
“Normally, you would have thought that a person would have some
decent common sense that you would just flip the body back over,”
Hunter testified. “We pay the utmost respect to bodies.”
The woman’s body remained prone overnight, causing “discoloration
of the face” and “fluid leakage on the shroud,” according to a
letter sent to department Chairman Dr. Roger Brumback from the
autopsy service director.
A funeral home director told the family that it was the
department’s fault and said he would “never let an unqualified
person touch the body if he were in charge,” according to an
Hunter, the residency program director, said he had never heard of
a pathologist leaving a body facedown. He suggested that it was
common knowledge to move bodies with sheets if they were
One of Garcia’s attorneys, Bob Motta Jr., asked Hunter whether a
young pathologist would know that.
As Hunter’s wife nodded her head in the courtroom, Hunter
responded, “I would hope so.”
The incident detailed on the seventh day of Garcia’s
quadruple-murder trial was yet another in a long line of concerns
that marred his first year of residency, including complaints by
professors about his attitude and competency. Garcia is accused of
killing Hunter’s 11-year-old son, Thomas, and Shirlee Sherman in
2008 and Brumback and his wife, Mary, in 2013.
Back in 2001, after the autopsy incident, Hunter decided to give
Garcia a second chance — but not at Creighton. He told Garcia days
after the autopsy that his contract wouldn’t be renewed but that
he would help Garcia find a spot in another residency program.
“Our idea was that, maybe in a different environment, he would do
much better,” Hunter said.
On March 14, Garcia met with Hunter again and said he wanted to
stay at Creighton. Hunter relented and agreed to put Garcia “under
review,” meaning Garcia had to achieve certain goals.
In April, Garcia performed “satisfactorily,” according to Hunter’s
But the “straw that broke the back,” Hunter testified, was when
Garcia tried to sabotage a chief resident who was taking a
“high-stakes exam” on May 17.
Hunter said Garcia called the chief resident’s wife that day,
explaining that he was urgently needed in the pathology department
for a conference — and if he didn’t show he would be fired.
The wife panicked — and not wanting to disrupt her husband —
called Karen Fisher, an official at Creighton, to double-check.
Hunter informed Fisher that the call was unfounded and that the
chief resident had an approved absence in
order to take the test.
A faculty assistant overheard Garcia and another resident talk
about the phone call to the wife and reported it to Hunter.
Hunter and Brumback gave Garcia and the other resident a
termination letter on May 22, with the option to resign. Garcia
immediately went to file an appeal, denying his role and citing a
“precedence of abuse against residents” from the
“Then we didn’t hear anything from him after that,” Hunter
An appeals committee upheld the firing.
But Hunter still wanted to help his former resident.
He sent a generic letter to Garcia that supported his applications
to other residency programs. “Dr. Garcia is a hard worker and is
relocating for personal reasons,” Hunter wrote on July 3, 2001.
Garcia was accepted into the residency program at the University
of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System that August.
He completed his first year, left after his second year, citing
medical problems, and had difficulty from then on securing
Prosecutors have said that Garcia bore a grudge against professors
in the Creighton pathology department, but Motta argued that
Hunter and Garcia left on amicable terms because of Hunter’s
“(Garcia) ended up walking to another residency. ... I think it’s
fair to say that that was in large part due to your gracious
nature in writing that letter?” Motta asked.
“It might be,” Hunter answered.
Hunter’s final testimony in the case — he also spoke to jurors on
the first day of the trial about discovering his son’s dead body —
lasted the entire morning and much of Wednesday afternoon.
Jurors also heard testimony from:
» Anita Kablinger, the psychiatry residency program director at
Louisiana State University, hired Garcia as one of eight residents
in July 2007. In February 2008, Kablinger fired Garcia for
falsifying a Louisiana medical license application. Garcia had
said he had not been the subject of probation or disciplinary
action — which wasn’t true, given what happened at Creighton.
Garcia, who is Latino, said the Creighton program was racist
against him. He claimed that he had been poorly treated and that
he wasn’t being dishonest, Kablinger testified. “I feel bad you
have to lose a resident,” Garcia said, according to Kablinger’s
scrawl on a notepad.
Seventeen days later, Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman were
» Jill Jarreau, an administrator in the Louisiana Office of Motor
Vehicles, testified that Garcia had titled a 2000 silver Honda CRV
at a Shreveport office in June 2007. He was issued a
reddish-orange and yellow-colored license plate featuring a
Neighbors of the Hunters testified last week that they saw a man
in a silver Honda CRV park near the Hunter home on the day of
Thomas’ and Sherman’s slayings. One said she noticed
» Illinois State Trooper Roger Goins testified about the July 14,
2013, arrest of Garcia on an entrance ramp of Interstate 57. Goins
said FBI agents had called him and a co-worker in another cruiser
and told them to make a “felony traffic stop” on a black Mercedes
SUV. According to a cruiser video, Garcia quickly surrendered.
» Robert Morrison, owner of the two Omaha Wingstop restaurants,
said Omaha police officers subpoenaed a receipt from 2:26 p.m. on
May 12, 2013, for a $7.69 credit-card charge at the 72nd and
Pacific Streets location. Prosecutors say Garcia ate at Wingstop
that afternoon and then killed the Brumbacks in their home soon
Wednesday’s final testimony muddied the state’s case and offered
no physical evidence of Garcia at either crime scene.
Laura Casey, a senior forensic technician, examined the latent
fingerprints taken from the Hunter and Brumback crime scenes. Four
prints from the Hunter home and one from the Brumback home could
not be identified.
Police asked Casey to compare the unknown prints from the Hunter
house to 27 people — including Garcia — and the print from the
Brumback home to one person of interest — Garcia.
The results? No match.
Trial day 6 - Prosecutors in Anthony Garcia case turn to
motive: grudge from 2001 firing from Creighton med center
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 11, 2016
Dr. Chhanda Bewtra spoke with the spunkiness of a newly retired
woman, the smarts of a lifelong teacher, the certainty of a
Asked to evaluate Anthony Garcia — a former resident she was in
charge of at Creighton University Medical Center — Bewtra wasted
Rude. Adversarial. Disruptive. Belligerent. Arrogant. Lazy.
Combative. Passive-aggressive. Mocking. Mean-spirited.
He once suggested that Bewtra had concocted her breast-cancer
“He said it was a hoax — that I was just making it up as an excuse
not to work,” she testified Tuesday. “He was absolutely the worst
resident in my 40 years of teaching.”
A prosecutor asked Bewtra to point out Garcia in court. She
The short woman — with dark hair virtually devoid of gray — stood
up in her green dress. She craned her neck past a monitor and
nodded her head toward the defendant, who was sitting at the end
of his four-person defense table.
“I recognize him,” she said. “He lost a lot of weight and he wears
glasses, but I recognize him.”
Tuesday — Day 6 of the Anthony Garcia trial — wasn’t a good look
In week one, prosecutors documented the gruesome knife slayings of
Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, in March 2008; the
shooting and stabbing of Dr. Roger Brumback, 65, and the stabbing
of Mary Brumback, 65, in May 2013. Prosecutors also accuse Garcia
of trying to break into Bewtra’s house.
As the trial spilled into week two Tuesday, prosecutors turned
jurors’ attention to motive: the festering grudge that they say
Garcia harbored over his 2001 firing from Creighton’s pathology
To that end, Kleine brought back the man who opened the state’s
case — Dr. William “Bill” Hunter, Bewtra’s colleague and the
former head of the residency program at Creighton. Hunter already
had testified to his gruesome discovery of Thomas and Sherman
after arriving home from the pathology department on March 13,
Hunter testified Tuesday to his knowledge of Garcia as a
first-year resident in 2000 and 2001. Hunter testified that he
took over as director of the pathology residency program in
January 2001. At that point, he said, the program had about 8 to
One who stood out: Garcia. And not because he was excelling.
As director, Hunter had to evaluate Garcia and the other residents
every six months. That means Hunter had to rely on the teaching
doctors who were in charge of the residents. Immediately, the
reviews were not good.
One warning sign: Hunter said only three of the six doctors had
submitted reviews of Garcia. When Hunter pressed the other three
on why they hadn’t, they told Hunter they “were concerned” about
Garcia “and didn’t want to put anything
Bewtra, on the other hand, wasn’t bashful.
Then in charge of surgical pathology, Bewtra gave Garcia several
“unacceptable” ratings. His worst: Attitude.
“Very passive/aggressive,” she wrote. “Dr. Garcia showed marked
lack of initiative and interest. He took no responsibility for his
cases. His knowledge ... is very poor. When specifically asked to
read up on certain topics and report back, he never did.”
In a Feb. 15, 2001, email to Hunter, Bewtra wrote that Garcia “was
extremely unpleasant in his behavior” during a conference on
“Without any reason or provocation, he began mouthing off, calling
me names and in spite of repeated efforts of the chief resident
... continued in his belligerent tirade,” she wrote. “He should be
put on probation. If this continues, his contract should be
That same day, Garcia sent a letter to Hunter about Bewtra.
“Bewtra hound(s) you by saying ‘you should know this’ and ‘why
don’t you know,’ ” he wrote. “Her purpose is to put you down and
have you submit to her power. She uses her position to verbally
abuse the residents she works with.”
Garcia then doubled down a day later.
In an email to his chief resident, Garcia wrote: “I would like you
to inform Bewtra that she has insolent behavior and she has on
many occasions humiliated, degraded and has insulted me. If she
illegally defames my name again or abuses me again, I will sue
The chief resident forwarded the email to Bewtra. Fed up, Bewtra
forwarded Garcia’s email to Hunter, with a handwritten note.
“Bill ... how many more documentations do you need?” she wrote. “I
think we have enough ‘good cause’ for immediate termination. ...
He should have been on probation long ago.”
Bewtra testified that she was anything but abusive. She was a
tough teacher who expected residents to know their stuff. However,
she said, “I was very fair.”
And Garcia was failing, she said.
He was “arrogant when I asked him questions,” Bewtra said. “And
then he would actually blame me for not knowing the answers. He
would say I was deliberately humiliating him. So much so that I
once asked him to tell me what you know and I will just ask that.”
Trial day 5 - On fifth day of Garcia trial, prosecutors
trace Roger and Mary Brumback's final moments
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 8, 2016
They looked like the grandparents they were, trying to figure out
this newfangled videochat software called FaceTime.
Heads tilted to the side, eyes not quite on the camera of the iPad,
Mary Brumback spoke to her only daughter on Mother’s Day 2013.
Roger Brumback was just to her right, peering through his glasses
at the screen.
For an hour and 4 minutes they talked with their daughter,
catching up on life and work and weather and Mother’s Day.
Calling from San Francisco, Audrey Brumback razzed her mom about
giving unsolicited advice to Audrey’s husband.
Audrey said she knew the crack would get a laugh — “I’m
hilarious,” she quipped — so she took a screen shot of it.
In the photo, Roger pulls away from his iPad, as if to give
himself room to bellow. Mary, with her curly, wispy white hair, is
beet red, midlaugh at her daughter’s zinger.
And there it was Friday, projected on an 80-inch screen in the
The last moments, last laughs, of a couple who would be dead just
an hour later, if the state’s timeline is to be believed.
On Friday — day five of Anthony Garcia’s trial — those final
moments were traced through photographs, phone calls and memories
of adult children who miss their parents dearly.
While the Brumbacks and their children were unwittingly sharing
their last conversations, prosecutors allege, Garcia — a former
resident in Brumback’s Creighton University Medical Center
pathology department — was lurking. Garcia’s attorneys dispute
that, saying any speculation about the timing of the Brumbacks’
deaths or Garcia’s involvement is simply guesswork.
“Eerily,” prosecutor Brenda Beadle said in opening statements,
“while the Brumbacks are talking to their daughter for the last
time, (Garcia) is sitting in a car in the parking lot,
The reason: Before targeting the Brumbacks, prosecutors allege,
Garcia, a pathology resident who had been fired from the Creighton
facility in 2001, had been thwarted in his attempt to break into
the home of another Creighton pathologist, Dr. Chhanda Bewtra.
Bewtra’s husband, Dr. Againdra Bewtra, testified Friday that he,
his wife and friends had gone to lunch on Mother’s Day.
Just after 2 p.m. their security company alerted them to a
possible break-in as they were two minutes from their home near
84th and Pacific Streets. Bewtra said he raced home to find no
burglar but the back door ajar — no more than 2 inches.
Bewtra said any burglar was perhaps thwarted by the sound of the
alarm and a heavy recliner that Bewtra had pushed against the
The Bewtras didn’t think much of the alarm. Neither called police.
Then came Tuesday, May 14, 2013. The Bewtras, both doctors at
Creighton, learned that their “very good friends, Roger and Mary,
had been killed in their house.”
“I still didn’t think it was related,” Againdra Bewtra testified.
He was one of the few. Speculation soon surged in Omaha. The
Brumbacks’ killings came five years after Thomas Hunter and
Shirlee Sherman were killed in the Dundee home of Dr. William
Hunter, another Creighton pathologist.
“I was telling my students about the (alarm),” Againdra Bewtra
said. “They all said ‘You have to report it.’”
On Thursday, May 16, he did. Omaha police swabbed the door for
evidence. Prosecutors say DNA tests link the swabs to Garcia —
although the defense says the results are not convincing.
Friday was less gruesome but no less gut-wrenching than the first
four days of Garcia’s trial.
The first key witness: Owen Brumback, the younger of the couple’s
two sons. An accountant who now works in real estate in Denver,
Owen recalled how he used to call his mom every day at noon.
“I knew she was often home alone in the day,” he said, letting
slip a smile. “I just wanted to keep her company. I liked talking
The way they kept in contact: the Brumbacks’ home phone.
Mary Brumback wasn’t much for cellphones — a fact not lost on
those grieving her loss. While police say the intruder shot and
killed Roger Brumback at the front door, one of Roger’s relatives
has wondered whether Mary could have used a cellphone to summon
police and perhaps save herself.
Owen Brumback said his mother carried only a flip phone, in her
“I never heard of her ever using it,” he said.
One of her concessions to popular convention: the iPad. Early that
morning, Owen had awakened with his 6-month-old daughter,
Savannah. So he called Grandma and Grandpa on FaceTime and propped
his daughter in front of the camera.
“I liked to show her off,” he said.
Just the weekend before, the Brumbacks had traveled to Denver for
Savannah’s baptism. They stayed for three days, doting on their
On Mother’s Day, the FaceTime visit wouldn’t last long. Savannah
was fussy, so Owen signed off.
Later that afternoon, Audrey FaceTimed in.
Sitting at their kitchen table, Mary had been reading a novel.
Roger, the Sunday paper.
They propped the iPad between them.
Audrey Brumback, a child neurologist, testified that she loved
talking to her parents. Audrey noted that long before he was a
pathologist at Creighton University, Roger Brumback himself had
been a child neurologist.
“It was really fun to just get to talk about child neurology with
him,” she said.
Both Mary and Roger Brumback were accomplished. Mary had been a
pharmacist before going to law school. As Roger ventured the
country — working in child neurology and then pathology — Mary
eventually became a family-practice lawyer in Norman, Oklahoma.
When Roger Brumback was hired at Creighton in 2000, she stopped
practicing law so she could travel with her husband. A workhorse
who spoke at colleges and seminars around the world, Roger wrote
more than 14 books and was the editor of two academic journals.
Mary Brumback also was prolific. She wrote a book on weight
control and fiber. And she wrote reams about her family, often
with an eye for detail and a sly sense of humor.
In a journal entered into evidence Friday, Mary Brumback copiously
chronicled her phone calls with her ailing mother, who was in an
assisted living facility in Maryland.
Every day, Mary Brumback would call her mom. Every day, she’d jot
down something about her mother’s mental state, her medical care,
“Found it under the bed,” Mary wrote one time. Another: “Found it
under her pillow.”
Once, Mary reported that her mother “thinks she’s been wearing
Mary told her mother about the couple’s excitement over moving to
West Virginia. Roger Brumback had taken an administrative post at
a West Virginia medical school that would allow him to scale back
his work hours. The couple had decided to downsize.
“She wants my piano,” Mary scribbled about her mother. “She could
play. Needs music. Would thrill her.”
Mary didn’t stop telling her about the move, even though her mom
didn’t seem to catch on.
“Told her (we) bought house,” Mary wrote April 23. “Moving end of
June ... (mom) not paying attention.”
And then the scribblings ended. Mary’s last notes: May 11, 2013.
Both Brumback children said their parents were excited for their
Under cross-examination, Garcia’s attorney, Robert Motta Jr.,
asked Owen Brumback if his dad told him that he was unhappy at
“Had you heard that the environment at Creighton was toxic?” Motta
Before Owen could fully answer, prosecutors objected, noting that
the answer called for hearsay. Judge Gary Randall sustained the
Motta vowed to tackle those issues next week. The trial, which is
to resume Tuesday, is expected to shift to motive: prosecutors’
allegations that Garcia harbored a grudge over Brumback and Hunter
firing him from Creighton in 2001.
“The county attorney and us have been playing pretty nice since
the trial started,” Motta said outside court. “It’s about to get
hairy. ... Next week’s going to be fireworks.”
Friday was simply heart-wrenching.
Between them, Audrey and Owen now have four children. None of the
children ever got to know their grandparents. (The Brumbacks’
older son, Darryl, was not called to testify.)
With a wide smile, Audrey Brumback spoke of her mother’s penchant
for pen and paper. Audrey said her mother would write her a letter
every week, “a handwritten letter.”
Beadle: “Like a mailed letter?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “My husband and I would go to the mailbox
and announce, ‘Oh, the Mary Brumback letter came today!’”
“I’d get one every week,” she said. “Fifty-two letters a year.
From my mom.”
A pause. A wistful smile.
“It was awesome.”
Trial day 4 - As prosecution in Garcia case tries to
establish when couple was killed, forensic expert says Mary
Brumback fought for her life
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 7, 2016
Mary Brumback used her bare hands to fight against a
knife-wielding attacker for as long as she could.
The 65-year-old woman’s arms and hands were cut more than 20
Her left thumb hacked all the way through the joint, only attached
by a tendon.
Two slashes on the top of her wrist — presumably from a knife that
sliced into the skin and out the other side.
A deep 3-inch slit on the back of her right hand.
“These are not lethal injuries, but they can be seen in situations
of a person attempting to ward off a weapon,” testified forensic
pathologist Michelle Elieff, who performed the autopsy.
Brumback battled until she was killed by multiple stab wounds to
the right side of her neck, Elieff concluded during the fourth day
of testimony in Anthony Garcia’s quadruple murder trial.
Like the Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman slayings in March 2008,
both Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, had their carotid
arteries severed with a knife on the right side of their necks.
They were killed in May 2013.
Mary Brumback suffered five cuts to her neck of varying depths
that appeared as one wound measuring a few inches. She also had a
gaping 4-inch slice from the nape of her neck to her earlobe,
which came from several “complex” stabs that damaged her voice box
and other blood vessels.
Roger Brumback was stabbed six times — two near his right earlobe,
one on his upper neck and three lower stabs close together.
Claire Hunter did not attend the testimony about her son Thomas’
autopsy Wednesday, but she was in the courtroom Thursday. When she
heard that the three stabs to Roger’s neck sliced his carotid
artery, much like her son’s was, she nodded knowingly.
Unlike the others, Roger Brumback was shot — three times. A fatal
wound came from a bullet that ripped through his abdomen, hitting
his liver and a large blood vessel before lodging in his back.
He was also shot in his right shoulder and the back of his leg,
and both of those bullets exited his body.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine asked Elieff if either the
abdomen gunshot wound or the severed carotid artery could have
been fatal itself.
“Yes,” Elieff said, adding that the gunshot wound was the “most
Kleine also asked Elieff if the discoloration and decomposition of
the bodies would be consistent with the Brumbacks being killed on
Sunday, May 12, 2013, two days before their bodies were
“Sure,” she said.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that the Brumbacks were killed on
that Sunday — Mother’s Day — after they spoke to their daughter on
a video call. Authorities have evidence that Garcia was in Omaha
that day. Robert Motta Sr., one of Garcia’s lawyers, countered in
his first cross-examination question:
“Would it also be consistent if they were killed at midnight on
“Sure,” Elieff also replied.
Motta also asked Elieff how she felt while performing the autopsy
on Roger Brumback, whom she knew professionally.
“I knew him, I had worked with him,” she said in her
afternoon-long testimony. “All individuals deserve respect and
care in their autopsy, so that’s my feeling for every autopsy.”
One of Motta’s final questions was whether the autopsy results
connected Garcia to the crimes.
Elieff explained, to the amusement of the jurors, that her job
isn’t to investigate like characters do on television. She just
performs the autopsy.
“So the answer is no?” Motta asked.
“Pretty much,” Elieff said.
The autopsy results followed a tedious morning detailing evidence
collected from the Brumback crime scene. That included testimony
on the trajectory of one of the bullets that prosecutors say
struck Roger Brumback as he stood in the
doorway of his west Omaha home.
Prosecutors say the same bullet that went through Brumback’s
shoulder passed through the open front door and then struck a wall
above a closet.
Todd Petrick of the Omaha police crime lab testified that he and
other crime lab technicians used a probe with a laser to determine
the bullet’s possible path. The probe was put through the hole in
the door, with the laser then lined up with the damage to the
The shortest testimony of the day came from Dr. Gary Hoff and
lasted about 10 minutes.
Hoff, a professor at Des Moines University, had met Roger Brumback
in 2012. Sometime in May 2013, Brumback emailed Hoff and offered
to donate dozens of medical books.
They scheduled Monday, May 13, for Brumback to come to Des Moines,
drop off the books and have lunch. Brumback even planned to bring
his wife so she could go shopping, Hoff said.
The couple was supposed to arrive about 11 a.m.
“He didn’t come,” Hoff testified.
No phone call, text or email.
Three days later, Omaha police officers called Hoff.
Officers had found piles of books in the trunk of the Brumbacks’
vehicle parked in their garage.
Trial day 3 - Testimony shifts to grisly scene at Roger
and Mary Brumback's home in third day of Anthony Garcia trial
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
Oct 5, 2016
It was a gorgeous May day, and Jason Peterson was running a bit
The owner of Transfer 88 — he moves pianos and their 88 keys —
backed into the driveway of Roger and Mary Brumback’s house at
11421 Shirley St.
He grabbed his four-wheel dolly and placed a ramp up to the front
of the two-story white house with black shutters.
He hustled up to the front porch, where he found the storm door
closed but the front door cracked open.
Such a sight is typical, Peterson said. A lot of people will crack
their door in anticipation of the movers.
But no one answered at the Brumbacks’ house. Peterson knocked,
called out hello, even ventured around to the backyard in case
“someone was doing yard work.”
He returned to the front and opened the screen door.
As he peeked in, he noticed a shiny object on the floor.
A magazine from a handgun.
“I said, ‘Uh oh,’” Peterson testified, between chews of his gum.
“‘Let’s back up off of here.’”
Peterson, his son and a nephew bolted to the driveway, where
Peterson called 911. Omaha police arrived.
Peterson said he trailed a “lady officer” to the front door. She
pushed open the door a bit more, then “immediately called for
“I’ve moved a lot of things in the course of moving a piano,”
Peterson said. “But I’ve never had to move a gun clip. That just
didn’t seem right.”
Had Peterson poked his head inside the house, he would have seen
how wrong it was:
Just behind that cracked door, Roger Brumback was splayed face
down, and his 6-foot-3, 200-pound body in a pool of blood. He had
been shot in the shoulder and stomach and stabbed in the neck.
In an adjacent sitting room, Mary Brumback was face up, her arms
spread, lying between a number of belongings that appeared to be
packed and ready to move.
The Brumbacks were on their way to West Virginia, where they had
decided to retire after Roger Brumback’s long tenure in the
pathology department at Creighton University.
“They were ready to make this move that they were so excited
about,” prosecutor Brenda Beadle said.
On Wednesday, day three of Anthony Garcia’s trial, prosecutors
transitioned from the March 13, 2008, deaths of 11-year-old Thomas
Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman to the May 12, 2013,
killings of the Brumbacks.
The parallels between the two sets of crimes — even the innocuous
ones — were impossible to ignore:
» Both sets of killings took place on seasonable days. A warm,
windy day in March 2008. A sun-splashed Mother’s Day in May 2013.
Further, prosecutors say, both attacks occurred in the middle of
the day — though the defense team questions how prosecutors know.
» The first paramedic to arrive at both scenes: Omaha Firefighter
Jason Gohr. The first detective at both scenes: Omaha Police
Officer Derek Mois.
» The chosen murder weapon: knives, presumably from inside the
victims’ homes. All four victims — even Roger Brumback, who was
shot — had knife wounds. All four basically bled out.
Prosecutors spent much of Wednesday detailing at least some of
those wounds through the testimony of Dr. Michelle Elieff, a
On the 80- and 60-inch screens in Judge Gary Randall’s courtroom,
jurors got high-definition views of:
» Eighteen cuts to Sherman’s neck. The wounds to the grandmother
looked like the teeth of a zipper running up the right front of
her neck. They generally grew wider as they went up the neck —
half-inch scars to inch-wide punctures to the fatal plunge, a
two-inch wide, C-shaped wound.
Sherman also had a bruise to her forehead, probably from a fall to
the floor, Elieff said.
» Nearly 10 wounds to Thomas’ neck, including the severing of his
jugular veins and carotid arteries on both sides.
Thomas also had bruises ringing his mouth and a swollen lower lip.
Elieff called those “compression bruises” — consistent with the
killer sneaking up from behind and muzzling Thomas’ mouth.
The photos fed into both prosecution and defense strategies.
Prosecutors used them to try to show that the killer was poking
away at the victims’ necks, searching for the two key vessels of
blood in the neck: the side-by-side carotid artery and jugular
Who would know to search? A former pathology student like Garcia,
Meanwhile, the photos have gone without any defense protest at
trial. Many defense teams will object to gratuitous photos of
autopsies, and most judges will set limits on how many photos are
admitted, so as not to inflame jurors any more than necessary.
However, Garcia’s defense team hasn’t objected.
The reason: Although the photos are disturbing, even disgusting,
their client didn’t inflict these wounds, his lawyers say. No
physical evidence connects him to the killings.
For his part, Garcia never gave more than a passing glance at the
photos. He spent the entire day scribbling notes and rarely
peering anywhere but down through his black-rimmed glasses at a
set of reports.
Jurors and spectators saw all they could handle.
As prosecutor Don Kleine displayed a close-up of the zipperlike
wounds on Sherman’s neck, Sherman’s brother Brad Waite winced. “Oh
my God,” he muttered. He used his left hand to wipe tears from his
right eye; his right hand to wipe tears from his left.
A juror in the back row pivoted her body toward an outside wall,
occasionally looking at the screen over her shoulder. One young
female juror buried her chin between her thumb and forefinger,
then wrapped her hair partially over her face.
After about an hour of viewing the photos, a middle-aged juror
wrote on her notepad: “Break please.”
Judge Randall recessed jurors for 10 minutes.
Things didn’t get much easier following the break. After several
close-ups of Tom’s autopsy, prosecutors turned to graphic photos
of what Omaha police found inside the Brumback house.
Roger Brumback was found, shot and stabbed, just inside his front
Under the state’s theory, he answered the door, then tried to
prevent his attacker from entering. Mois testified that a bullet
went through Brumback as he stood in front of the door, then went
through a door and into a front-entry wall. (The defense mocked
that theory, questioning how the bullet could travel that high or
Startled by the commotion, Mary Brumback, who perhaps had been in
the kitchen, came to the front of the house to try to help her
“She fought till her death,” Beadle told jurors in opening
statements. “She fought with every fiber she had in her.”
She fought so hard that she had several defensive wounds on her
left hand, Mois said. Her left thumb was nearly severed.
Remarkably, the Brumbacks’ neighbors didn’t hear much.
A block away, neighbor Larry Mason said he heard three pops that
Sunday. He said he initially believed that they were gunshots but
then scanned his neighborhood for anyone running, anyone
screaming. He didn’t see anything, he said, so he attributed the
noises to a backfiring lawnmower.
The time? About 3:30 p.m.
Garcia’s defense team, meanwhile, continued to contend that
prosecutors have no timeline for the Brumbacks’ deaths. They were
last heard from on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013. But their bodies
weren’t found until May 14, a Tuesday.
That led Robert Motta Jr. to ask a simple question of Gohr, the
first firefighter to enter the Brumbacks’ house.
With bodies laying there for nearly two days, he asked: “Did the
“I’ve walked into some houses, and the first thought I had was,
‘There’s a dead body in here,’” Gohr testified. “I don’t remember
thinking that here.”
Motta also pointed out a curious sight: that Mary Brumback’s body
appeared to be a foot or so from a large blood spot. In between
her and the blood spot: mostly clean carpet.
Motta questioned how Mary Brumback’s body moved. Gohr said no
first responders altered her body.
“I see what you’re talking about,” Gohr said. “That wasn’t
something I made a mental note of. I just remember thinking, ‘Wow
that’s a lot of blood.’”
Even with all the blood, it wasn’t hard to spot the signs of a
couple on the cusp of their new adventure.
The house was almost completely packed. Two computer towers sat in
the living room. The dining-room hutch was devoid of drawers.
Boxes were stacked. Furniture was pushed to the middle.
On the kitchen table: the Sunday paper, its sections scattered,
comics on top.
Just beyond it, a romance novel that Mary Brumback was reading,
its pages propped open by a rock.
As he prepared the house to sell, Roger Brumback was dressed in
painting clothes and loafers. There was a ladder in the entryway.
Just beneath the ladder: an opened can of beige paint. In the
paint: a drop of blood.
No more than 20 feet away, an 8-by-10 photo of a smiling Roger
Brumback sits on a small desk. It’s his professional mug, from
when he was chairman of Creighton University’s pathology
department, in charge of residents — like Garcia once was.
A crime-scene photo captures that desk and its surroundings:
A manhole-sized blood stain on the carpet.
The lifeless legs of Mary Brumback.
And a promotional folder from the company hoping to pack up the
rest of the Brumbacks’ belongings.
On its front, in large letters:
“Life never stops moving.”
Trial day 2 - Garcia trial, Day 2 recap: Police detective
testifies he suspects 11-year-old boy was killed before
By Alia Conley - World-Herald staff writer
October 4, 2016
Only Thomas Hunter, Shirlee Sherman and their killer or killers
knew what occurred in the moments leading up to their brutal fatal
But Omaha Police Detective Derek Mois offered his tragic theory on
the second day of testimony in the Anthony Garcia murder trial.
A lone assailant confronted Thomas first, Mois said he believes,
possibly forcing the 11-year-old boy to lie face down on the
dining room rug and then stabbing him in the neck with a 5-inch
kitchen knife from the home.
Sherman came upon the grisly scene and attempted to flee, Mois
“She’s found behind cleaning supplies, like she’s running through
the hallway to get away,” Mois testified Tuesday.
Her body was discovered slumped and face down in a back hallway,
blood running down a step. A 7-inch knife was lodged in her neck.
Investigators found mucus or vomit on Thomas’ shirt and
discoloration on the back of Sherman’s shirt. Thomas could have
vomited, and vomit was transferred to Sherman by the killer, Mois
said. The defense team for Garcia offered another suggestion.
Jeremy Jorgenson asked Mois during cross-examination whether
Sherman could have been killed first by multiple assailants,
Thomas watched and vomited, then ran outside and was killed.
Debris and leaves were found near Thomas’ socks and jacket left
behind in another room.
“That’s not a theory we discussed that night,” Mois responded,
adding later during redirect from Chief Deputy County Attorney
Brenda Beadle that there was no evidence that Thomas was killed
outside the home.
Jorgenson also asked Mois about fingerprints that crime lab
technicians lifted from the home.
“You would have been made aware if the prints matched Garcia,
right?” Jorgenson asked.
“Yes, I would,” Mois said.
“And they didn’t, right?” Jorgenson pressed.
“No, they didn’t,” Mois responded.
Garcia, meanwhile, appeared to be sleeping during a late-morning
crime lab technician’s testimony that was detailed and tedious. He
rested his head on his left fist, then held his chin with both
hands, elbows on the table and eyes closed.
In the afternoon, Garcia continued to write on his notepad, as he
Another revelation came Tuesday from Mois’ testimony: Thomas may
even have opened the door for the killer, a discrepancy from
Monday’s testimony from Paul Medin, a neighbor who thought he saw
a woman with brown, curly hair answer the door.
Beadle pointed out that Sherman had a bright blue bandanna
covering her hair. Thomas had long, shaggy, curly brown hair.
Medin had been walking with one son to pick up another son at
Dundee Elementary School that afternoon. He noticed a man who he
had never seen before wearing a dark jacket with “olive skin”
walking in the neighborhood.
“I had a bad feeling about what was happening,” Medin said.
Medin said he saw the man stumble as if tripping over a crack in
the sidewalk and then continue to the Hunters’ front door.
Beadle asked Medin whether the man could have been drunk.
Possibly, Medin said.
Medin said he believed the man looked out of place, so he made a
mental note to remember one thing: the house number of the
“I had a suspicious feeling,” Medin testified.
Dana Boyle, who lived across the street from the Hunters’ home,
saw Thomas get off the school bus and head up the front steps.
Minutes later, at 3:12 p.m., she walked south on 54th Street to
help her son walk across a busy street.
Boyle noticed a blue-gray Honda CRV driving north on 54th Street,
she testified. The car was stopping and going, and the male driver
who “looked of Middle Eastern descent” was looking on the east
side of the street, as if he was looking for an address, Boyle
The license plate was not from Nebraska and had pastel colors.
Prosecutors have said Garcia had owned a silver CRV in 2008 that
had Louisiana plates, but he later sold the vehicle to his
The driver, who stopped just north of the Hunters’ home, looked at
Boyle through the rear-view mirror and then sped off.
Boyle returned with her son and let her children play in the front
yard. About an hour later, she drove her boys to get a haircut.
When she returned that evening, police had cordoned off her
Defense attorney David Reed questioned Boyle on various statements
she made to police in a handful of interviews. Reed asked whether
Boyle remembered telling officers that Sherman was the target or
that she was worried about “predators” from video games that could
have hurt Thomas.
Boyle, visibly annoyed at Reed’s questioning, said she and
neighbors had been shocked at the vicious crime in an otherwise
quiet neighborhood, and wanted to do anything to help.
“At the time we were all pretty distraught. We’re trying to come
up with any kind of idea why (it occurred),” Boyle testified.
“This was our beloved neighborhood, as well as a child we all
Three more neighbors testified Tuesday afternoon that they saw a
silver Honda CRV park on 53rd Street just north of Dodge Street,
Jacqueline Foster, helping her son Aaron Foster with his paper
route, was angry that the vehicle parked directly adjacent to her
driveway and was vulnerable to getting hit. Jacqueline and Aaron
both testified they recognized the type of vehicle because
Jacqueline’s mother-in-law drives a silver CRV.
Mary Rommelfanger, who also lives on 53rd Street, said the driver
was a man who “could have been Italian, Hispanic or Middle
Eastern” and wore dark clothing. The man waited in the car for
about a minute, she testified, then got out of the SUV and walked
in the neighborhood.
Rommelfanger left her home about 4 p.m. to pick up her daughter
from church. She returned at about 4:30 p.m., and the SUV was
Hours later, her mother called to tell her two people had been
killed on 54th Street.
“And I said to her, ’Oh my god, I saw the man,’” Rommelfanger
Trial day 1 - On Garcia trial's first day of testimony,
father describes horror of discovering slaying victims, one his
By Todd Cooper - World-Herald staff writer
October 4, 2016
A diminutive man, his hair as thin as he is, Dr. William “Bill”
Hunter walked to the front of a Douglas County courtroom,
five strides from the former employee who is accused of killing
Hunter’s 11-year-old son.
Elbows planted on the arms of the witness chair, Hunter
interlocked his fingers and described coming home on an otherwise
mundane day to a surreal scene.
He first found Shirlee Sherman, a doting grandmother, on the
landing of a back hallway. He later found his waif of a son,
Thomas Hunter, in the dining room.
True to his medical roots, Hunter described his reaction in
A quickened heart rate. Rocketing blood pressure. A state of
The 911 operator “kept asking, ‘Do you need a rescue squad?’”
Hunter recalled Monday, the first witness in the murder
trial of Anthony Garcia. “I said, ‘No these two are deceased.
They’re dead. I need the police.’”
Asked to identify Exhibit No. 1649, he looked down through the
thin black rims of his glasses at a photo from a happier
“Yes. That’s, uh, my son Thomas.”
In it, little Tom Hunter is wearing his YMCA basketball jersey.
Beneath his shaggy hair, the 11-year-old flashes a smile
of metal — the braces of a sixth-grader. The basketball he’s
holding looks too big for his skinniness. And there appears
to be some sort of formula written on his forearm — fitting for
the kid who loved math and science.
Moments later, prosecutor Don Kleine slid another photo in front
of Hunter. He asked Bill Hunter to identify Exhibit
“That’s my son,” he said quietly.
He looked away.
Jurors only wish they could have. Several averted their eyes at
the image of the skinny boy, face down, with a knife in
The emotions of the biggest trial in a century of Omaha justice
came out in little waves Monday: the deep breaths of Bill
Hunter; Claire Hunter bowing her head as a son rubbed her back; a
relative of Shirlee Sherman weeping quietly as she
rested her head on the shoulder of Sherman’s son Jeff; the tearful
embraces of victims’ families.
Attorneys on both sides of the Anthony Garcia case don’t agree on
much. But as the case opened Monday, they both had a
warning for jurors:
“This case will never leave you,” said Robert Motta Sr., one of
Bill Hunter has images that will never leave him.
That Thursday, March 13, 2008, had been like any other, with this
exception: Tom’s mother, Claire Hunter, a cardiologist
and professor at Creighton, had been in Hawaii for a work
So Bill Hunter stayed home a little later than normal that morning
— and watched to make sure his youngest son safely
boarded his 6:45 a.m. bus for King Science Center, where he was in
the sixth grade.
After school, Tom, the youngest of the Hunters’ four sons, was a
latchkey kid — “a very responsible kid,” his dad said.
Just the day before, Tom had spent his after-school hours playing
with his friends at Dundee Elementary School, a block
or so from the Hunters’ home.
Mom and Dad’s deal with son every day: Get home by 6 for dinner.
On this day, neither Tom nor Dad would have to worry. Instead of
playing outside on the warm, windy March day, Tom
decided to stay home and play his Xbox.
After a Creighton faculty meeting wrapped up after 5 p.m., Bill
Hunter made the 10-minute drive home to 303 N. 54th St.
He noticed something was a bit off when he found Sherman’s white
sedan pulled around to the back. She typically was gone
by the time Hunter got home from work.
Hunter thought perhaps she was just running late.
He stepped inside their back door. There in the entryway to their
kitchen were Tom’s favorite black Adidas shoes, his
backpack plopped on the floor.
“That was pretty typical,” Bill Hunter chuckled. “He was supposed
to take out his homework and sit at the kitchen table
and do some homework. But a lot of times he would play video games
Hunter had taken just a few steps inside the entryway when he was
startled to find Sherman, face down, at the landing of
the steps. A knife in her neck.
“I just took one look at her,” Bill Hunter said. “And obviously
she was dead. There was blood everywhere. Then I started
getting a little worried, a little agitated. I immediately
thought, ‘Where’s Tom?’”
Hearing an Xbox playing, he said he rushed down the stairs to the
Halfway down, he could see the TV, the Xbox, a carton of Dr Pepper
and a bag of potato chips. But no Tom. He rushed back
“I was yelling, ‘Tom, Tom,’” he said, his palms up, as he
recounted the scramble.
He then found his youngest son, face down, on a rug in the front
dining room. He raced to him. Saw the blood. Saw the
knife in the neck.
Reached for his son’s hand. There was no pulse.
“It was pretty obvious he was dead,” Bill Hunter said, his eyes
blank. “A lot of the blood had soaked into the rug. And
then I noticed the knife sticking in his neck. It was still in the
neck. Likewise Shirlee.”
For a moment, he had no clue what to do.
“I was in a state of fright,” Hunter said. “My blood pressure was
up. My heart was racing. I was just flabbergasted at
what I was seeing.”
He called 911. However, Hunter said, he barely could get any words
“Fortunately, the 911 operator was professional,” he said. “I
didn’t even know how to explain what I was seeing.”
In opening statements to jurors, prosecutors had a word for what
Hunter was witnessing: revenge.
Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle told jurors
that Garcia, one of Hunter’s former students, was miffed
that Hunter had fired him from the Creighton University Medical
Center in 2001.
That termination had dogged Garcia as he tried to land jobs and
medical licenses across the country, Beadle said.
A month before the killings, Louisiana State University had fired
Garcia from its medical program in February 2008.
The reason: LSU officials found out that Garcia had left out the
Creighton firing on his application to their program.
The person who informed them of Garcia’s firing: Bill Hunter.
But the killer that March day scurried away — and the case went
cold, Beadle said.
Then in 2013, the pattern happened again, Beadle said. Garcia was
desperate for work, she said. He applied for a medical
license in Indiana.
The person who informed Indiana of his Creighton firing? Dr. Roger
Beadle outlined a number of evidentiary items that she says will
connect Garcia to the killings: surveillance photos of
Garcia in Omaha on the day authorities believe the Brumbacks were
killed; DNA found on the door handle of another doctor
the day the Brumbacks were killed; phone searches for the
addresses of the Brumbacks and that of Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, the
third Creighton doctor that prosecutors allege Garcia tried to
Garcia even searched for the address of Bewtra’s daughter, Beadle
Those clues will be explored in detail over the next four to six
weeks of trial.
But there was one search that stood out.
Garcia had performed an Internet search on his smartphone for a
quote from Shakespeare, Beadle said.
The quote: “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
Over and over in opening statements, Beadle used that quote — from
“The Merchant of Venice” — to punctuate the steps she
said Garcia took to get even with his former bosses.
“This case is about revenge,” she said.
One of Garcia’s attorneys, Robert Motta Sr., countered that the
case is about a rush to judgment.
The pathology department at Creighton had a number of misfits,
including a few other residents who had been fired about
the same time as Garcia, Motta Sr. said.
And further, Motta said, FBI agents looking into the killings
noted that another killing — the November 2007 slaying of
Joy Blanchard — had the same pattern as the four killings in this
case. Knife wounds to the neck — or knives actually
left inside the neck.
Motta said two knives were left in Blanchard’s neck. A nephew of
Blanchard’s, Charles Simmer, has been charged in her
“I don’t know whether he did it or not,” Motta said of Simmer.
“But the FBI thought it significant enough ... that they
decided to investigate these five crimes as a serial killing. It’s
something so striking that it’s almost like a
Prosecutors closed the day with images of that grisly signature.
“I can’t possibly prepare you for what you’re about to see,”
The courtroom grew still.
Sherman was dressed in a bright blue shirt and pink pants. Tom in
a T-shirt and a pair of his favorite shorts.
Next to him: the wire-rim eyeglasses he used to wear. Blood spots
dotted the carpet beneath his glasses. Both Tom and
Sherman were splayed, face down, on the first floor of the stately
home. Butcher’s knives went all the way through their
As close-ups of those photos were displayed, jurors craned their
necks to look, then looked away. A few winced, only to
periodically glance to see if the images were still there. Claire
Hunter dropped her head and largely avoided the images.
One of Thomas’ older brothers comforted her, until he himself got
up and left the courtroom.
As if the images weren’t enough, there’s another item branded on
Bill Hunter’s brain.
After finding the bodies, Bill Hunter heard little — no one
stirring in the quiet of the home. Nothing creaking.
The only thing he could hear was a persistent noise from
The Xbox that Thomas had been playing remained on, Hunter said.
Over and over, it kept blaring the arcade-like noises that
accompany video games.
The sounds of child’s play.
“That horrible music,” Bill Hunter said.
Former doctor 'stabbed four to death,
including 11-year-old boy, to avenge his firing from medical
center years before'
Prosecutors say that Dr. Anthony Garcia's
firing from the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha led
to revenge killings
In 2008, prosecutors allege that Garcia
stabbed to death the 11-year-old son and housekeeper of one of
the doctors who fired him in 2001
The other doctor who fired him as well as his
wife were murdered in the same fashion in 2013, five years after
the first killings
Garcia's life spiraled out of control after
his termination - he couldn't get a license to practice medicine
and his house was foreclosed on
Prosecutors say he blamed it all on the
doctors who fired him and was determined to get revenge
By Associated Press and Kiri Blakeley For
October 3, 2016
Prosecutors in Nebraska opened a first-degree murder trial Monday
against a former doctor by arguing he committed four
killings in Omaha to avenge his firing from Creighton University
Prosecutors outlined their case against Dr. Anthony Garcia, who is
charged with stabbing to death the 11-year-old son of
two medical doctors and the family's housekeeper in 2008.
He is also accused of killing another Omaha doctor and his wife in
2013 in the same gruesome way, stabbing them all in
the necks and leaving the knives embedded in their flesh.
Prosecutors said the killings were motivated by Garcia's
long-simmering rage from being fired from the medical school's
residency program in 2001, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
'This is a case about revenge,' Deputy County Attorney Brenda
Beadle said. 'This is a man whose life was spiraling into
disaster, and he blamed Creighton.'
Garcia's attorneys responded that prosecutors lack witnesses or
Defense attorney Robert Motta Sr. called prosecutors' case a
'loosely woven tapestry' that would fall apart as lawyers
Garcia was arrested in 2013 and charged with the 2008 killings of
Thomas Hunter, 11, and housekeeper Shirlee Sherman, 57.
Their bodies were found by Thomas' father, Dr. William Hunter, who
works in Creighton's pathology department.
The killings remained unsolved for years, and then, in May 2013,
another Creighton pathology doctor, Roger Brumback, and
his wife, Mary, were found slain in their Omaha home.
The Brumbacks, both 65, had also been stabbed in the necks,
according to Omaha World-Herald. Roger Brumback had
additionally been shot three times.
Investigators developed a motive in the killings, noting William
Hunter and Roger Brumback had together fired Garcia from
the Creighton residency program in 2001 for unprofessional conduct
and later wrote letters that kept him from being
accepted to other residency programs and approved for medical
licenses in other states.
After opening statements, Hunter described calling 911 after
finding the body of his son and Sherman.
'I didn't know how to explain what I was seeing,' Hunter
testified. 'It didn't seem real to me.'
Garcia faces a possible death penalty if convicted.
Defense attorney Robert Motta Sr. strongly hinted that the cases
were the work of an unknown serial killer instead -
saying that a fifth victim in the area, who had nothing to do with
Creighton, also died from neck stabbing.
'This is something that’s so striking, it’s almost like the
signature of a killer,' he said in court.
A neighbor, Paul Medin, testified that on the afternoon of the
killings of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman, on March
13, he saw a strange man walk up to the house, but assumed it was
a 'traveling salesman.'
However, he said he had such a premonition about the man that he
took note of the home's street address in case he heard
of something happening there. Two hours later, he learned about
Garcia was fired from the Creighton pathology department in May
2001 after a botched autopsy and behavior issues,
William Hunter and Roger Brumback signed his letter of
Garcia was fired in 2008 from Louisiana State University after
officials there learned of his earlier termination, which
he had failed to disclose.
Two weeks later, the Hunter home was the scene of unimaginable
In 2012, he was unable to secure a license to practice medicine in
Indiana and his house went into foreclosure.
Prosecutors said Garcia purchased a gun, and did internet searches
on how to drive to Omaha.
The defense attorney, Motta, says the supposed internet searches
are a 'rush to judgment.'
Bail denied doctor in 4 revenge killings
July 23, 2013
Bail was denied today for a doctor accused of killing four people
in revenge for being fired 12 years ago from a university
Anthony J. Garcia, 40, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and heavily
shackled, made his first appearance in Douglas County
Court in Omaha this morning.
Garcia -- who practiced in Chicago -- has been charged with
first-degree murder in the deaths in May of Dr. Roger
Brumback and his wife, Mary, in their Omaha home, as well as the
murders of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and his family's
housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman, also in Omaha, in 2008.
Police say the killings were acts of revenge against Brumback and
another Creighton University doctor who fired him from
a pathology residency in 2001 for unprofessional conduct.
Garcia was arrested last week in southern Illinois, and extradited
late on Thursday to Omaha. An affidavit unsealed last
week showed receipts, eyewitness accounts, cell phone records, and
evidence at the Brumbacks' home connected Garcia to
Omaha at the times of the killings.
Garcia's attorneys argued before Judge Lawrence Barrett Tuesday
that the evidence in the affidavit was "circumstantial
and thinly veiled." Garcia will be held in the Douglas County
Department of Corrections pending a preliminary hearing set
for August 14.
The Brumbacks, both 65, were found dead on May 14. Each had stab
wounds to the side of their necks and Dr. Brumback also
was shot, according to the affidavit. Police said the stab wounds
were similar to ones found in the 2008 murders.
Garcia was fired in 2001 by Brumback and Dr. William Hunter. The
murdered 11 year old was Hunter's son, but Police have
said they do not believe the boy or the housekeeper were the
According to the affidavit and records, Garcia had applied for an
Indiana medical license in 2008 and in 2012. Indiana
denied his requests. Records released by the Indiana medical board
from those applications show he failed to complete
residencies in New York, Illinois and Louisiana in addition to
He was suspended from a New York residency for yelling at a
radiology technician, then withdrew from the program in 1999.
He also withdrew from an Illinois residency, citing migraine
Garcia's application for a Louisiana medical license was rejected
in February 2008, two weeks before Hunter and Sherman
were killed, in part because he had not completed the other
(Reporting by Katie Schubert, Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Greg
McCune and Alden Bentley)
Doctor charged in 4 killings
Cops: Former Chicago-based physician responsible for Omaha
slayings in '08 and '13
By Michelle Manchir, Jodi S. Cohen and Jeremy Gorner - Chicago
July 16, 2013
Working with elderly patients in the Chicago area just a few years
ago, Dr. Anthony Joseph Garcia was always gentle and
pleasant, according to his former boss, who remembered him as a
highly professional physician.
But Garcia, 40, had a troubled past. Over the years, he failed to
complete four medical residencies, including one at the
University of Illinois at Chicago.
Now, authorities say grudges that took hold during years of
professional frustration led Garcia to kill four people in
Omaha, Neb., where he was once a resident at Creighton University.
He was arrested this week in southern Illinois.
One of his alleged victims was the 11-year-old son of one of the
doctors who fired him in 2001 from his residency at
Creighton. The boy, Thomas Hunter, and his family's housekeeper,
Shirlee Sherman, 57, were stabbed to death by someone
who broke into the Hunters' Omaha home in 2008.
Then in May, police say Garcia killed the other doctor he blamed
for his undoing at Creighton, Roger Brumback, and his
wife, Mary, both 65. Roger Brumback was fatally shot, his wife was
stabbed to death, authorities said.
"I did not see any indications that he was capable of (this). I
did not see anything like that," said Dr. Vladimir
Vidanovic, a UIC assistant professor of clinical pathology who was
in the same resident class as Garcia at UIC and
described him as being quiet, calm and withdrawn.
On Monday, Illinois State Police stopped Garcia in Union County
and took him into custody. He showed signs of alcohol
impairment and had a .45-caliber handgun with him but was taken in
without incident, Omaha police Chief Todd Schmaderer
said at a news conference this week.
Garcia, who had been living in Terre Haute, Ind., was charged with
four counts of first-degree murder and use of a weapon
in the slayings, Schmaderer said. Authorities will seek his
extradition to Nebraska Wednesday.
A task force of local, state, and federal law enforcement
officials was set up in May to investigate the four slayings in
Omaha and determine if they were connected. Schmaderer said the
task force had been watching Garcia for some time and
decided to make the arrest when he went on the move.
While Garcia failed to get a medical license in at least four
states, he was given a license to practice medicine in
Illinois in 2003, while he was still a UIC resident, records show.
The license has been renewed since then and his
current license is set to expire next year. Garcia has had no
disciplinary issues, said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the
Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Hofer said she could not explain why Illinois granted Garcia a
license to practice medicine in the state when so many
other states had found his record problematic.
In March, several months after being denied a license to practice
medicine in Indiana, Garcia was arrested for DUI while
driving a Ferrari in southwest suburban Bedford Park. A breath
test indicated his blood-alcohol content was nearly three
times the legal limit.
Garcia's parents, reached at their home in Walnut, Calif.,
Tuesday, declined to comment. His Chicago-area lawyers, Alison
and Robert Motta II, said they had been contacted by Garcia's
family at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and planned to meet with Garcia
on Tuesday evening.
"The family believes strongly in his innocence and that he has not
done what he's being charged with, and they fully
stand behind him," Alison Motta said.
Garcia got his medical degree from the University of Utah in 1999,
according to records he filed with the Medical
Licensing Board of Indiana.
Garcia started a residency in family practice at Bassett St.
Elizabeth Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. He stayed for about
six months before records indicate he resigned to avoid a
disciplinary investigation and hearing into his "unprofessional
and inappropriate conduct" during an incident in the radiology
department, according to the New York State Office of
Professional Medical Conduct.
Garcia later told the medical licensing board in Indiana that he
had been "essentially fired" from the residency because
he had yelled at a radiology technician. He said he felt he was
being treated unfairly, records show.
Garcia began his residency in Creighton's Department of Pathology
in July 2000, according to records. He was fired almost
a year later on the grounds that he placed a telephone call to a
fellow resident's home while the resident was taking an
examination. Garcia allegedly told the resident's wife that her
husband needed to return to the Department of Pathology,
according to school officials.
Schmaderer said Garcia was fired by Dr. Brumback and Dr. William
Hunter, Thomas Hunter's father, "for a form of erratic
Garcia said he was "essentially fired" because he had called the
fellow resident to tell him his vacation was not
His next stop was the residency program at the UIC Medical Center,
where he was enrolled from 2001 through 2003,
according to records. Garcia told Indiana authorities that he left
the residency "due to poor health/Migraine
Several of Garcia's former colleagues at UIC described him as
someone who was not a standout physician, but who also
didn't exhibit any obviously troubling behavior. A UIC spokeswoman
declined to comment on the circumstances of Garcia's
departure from the program.
Dr. Robert Folberg, head of UIC's pathology department when Garcia
was a resident, said he couldn't recall why Garcia
"There was something that happened and he separated," said Folberg,
now dean of Oakland University's medical school in
Michigan. "Typically residents don't separate from us if they are
Garcia enrolled in a psychiatry residency at the Louisiana State
University Health Sciences Center. On Feb. 27, 2008, the
Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners wrote to Garcia
informing him that he may not possess the necessary
qualifications for medical licensure because he did not report
that he did not complete the pathology programs at
Creighton or UIC.
Garcia left the institution the next day, records show.
About two weeks later, on March 13, 2008, the bodies of Thomas
Hunter and Sherman were found.
Later that year, in December 2008, Garcia applied for a license to
practice medicine in Indiana and was granted a
temporary permit until he withdrew his application. At the time,
he listed an apartment in Chicago as his residence.
The apartment is located above Visiting Physicians in the Near
West Side, where Garcia worked as a contract physician in
2009, making house calls to elderly patients.
His former boss, Dr. Benjamin Toh, on Tuesday described him as an
ideal tenant and doctor who had no complaints from his
Alison Motta said her client had been under surveillance by
Nebraska authorities when he was pulled over by Illinois
state police. Garcia is scheduled to appear for an extradition
hearing Wednesday in Union County.
Tribune reporters Carlos Sadovi, Rosemary Regina Sobol, Ari
Bloomekatz and Cynthia Dizikes contributed. Reuters also