A Pennsylvania man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a man whose body was dismembered in a downtown Los Angeles hotel room in what was characterized as a ritualistic murder.

Edward and Melissa Garcia. Images via LAPD
Edward and Melissa Garcia. Images via LAPD
Edward Garcia Jr., 41, was convicted June 23 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 28, 2010, stabbing death of Herbert Tracy White in Room 66 at the Continental hotel.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder involving the infliction of torture and murder during the commission of a robbery.

Garcia’s 30-year-old wife, Melissa, is awaiting trial for her alleged role in the killing.

Prosecutors decided against seeking the death penalty against the Garcias, who have remained jailed without bail since being arrested about two weeks after the 49-year-old man’s killing.

“I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler said just before sentencing Garcia.

The judge cited the “heinous nature of the crime.”

Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told jurors that the couple were carrying out a “fantasy they had about cutting up a human being.” He said the victim’s body had “very little to no blood” left in it as a result of what a prosecution witness had opined was a “ritualistic killing.”

Some of the victim’s remains were later found in a backpack in a corner of the room, while other body parts were found bundled up underneath the blood-stained mattress which had been flipped over and stripped of its sheets, McKinney said.

“The blood is everywhere — in the mattress, in the sheets. It’s everywhere but where it’s supposed to be,” McKinney said, telling jurors that the evidence showed that “some weird stuff” was done.

“Something else is going on here. It’s overkill,” McKinney told the panel.

Defense attorney Haydeh Takasugi acknowledged that Garcia was responsible for the killing, but disputed that it was premeditated.

“They have not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.

Takasugi urged jurors to acquit Garcia of first-degree murder and to reject the special circumstance allegations, saying that there was no evidence that Garcia or his wife stole valuables from the victim and that the majority of the injuries were inflicted either at or near the time of White’s death or after he had already been killed.

The two initially met White when he gave them money outside a bank in Hollywood, then called him early that morning to pick them up after their belongings got wet in the rain, the defense attorney told jurors.

Elizabeth White-Peterson called her son’s death an “overkill” and said his casket could not be open because of the way his body was “decimated.”

“All he ever wanted was to help people,” she told the judgge. “I’m so sorry he ever laid eyes on these people.”

One of the victim’s brothers, David White, called his family “Christian folks” and said his sibling’s only intention was to help the couple. He said his brother would have never done or said some of the things the defense alleged during the trial.

The victim was described by the prosecutor as a former cocaine addict who “hated drugs” and had dedicated his life to helping other addicts.

Outside court, White’s mother told reporters, “It didn’t take them but a night to kill my son and for us to wait five years to get some justice being served that was pretty rough on us.”

The woman said she and her sons miss the victim, whom she called “a tremendous presence.”

“You can’t say it’s closure because it’s not closure for us because he’s not here with us and he’s always going to be in our hearts,” she said. “It gives me a big sigh of relief that I don’t have to come down here and look at Edward Garcia’s face ever again. And, as I said, I know that as a Christian woman I’m supposed to forgive, but I’m not there yet.”

Garcia is expected to appeal his conviction.

— City News Service

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