Additional charges were filed Friday against a Mexican national accused of sexually assaulting and trying to kill multiple women in Indio and surrounding locations, with authorities asking anyone who may know of similar acts by the defendant to come forward.
Jose Manuel Martinez Garcia, 36, was originally arrested and charged in early October for attacks on four women, but since then, Indio police, Riverside County sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Office investigators procured evidence pointing to assaults on two other women, D.A. Mike Hestrin announced during a briefing at D.A.’s headquarters in downtown Riverside.
“The level of violence here is stunning,” Hestrin said. “Three victims were strangled into unconsciousness. He tried to run one of the victims down with his truck and broke her leg.”
The assault spree began in September 2020 and continued until August of this year, according to prosecutors.
Garcia, who is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, is slated to appear at the Larson Justice Center Friday afternoon for a hearing on the amended criminal complaint.
He is now charged with four counts each of attempted murder and rape, as well as one count each of kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, forcible sodomy, forced oral copulation and sexual penetration by force, with sentence-enhancing allegations of targeting multiple victims in a sex crime.
“This was a heinous crime and bad acts, but this is a good day. Charges have been filed against this individual, and he’s in custody, off of the street,” Indio Assistant Police Chief Chris Shaefer said. “We didn’t know about this person before these violent acts started occurring. It shows people need to be vigilant when they’re out and about.”
According to Hestrin, it’s possible Garcia knew several of the victims, but it was unclear to what extent. He said that the defendant generally approached the women late at night, in one of two pickup trucks — a silver Chevrolet Silverado or a white Dodge Ram.
In one instance, he intentionally ran over a victim, breaking one of her legs. She was left in a ditch near Thermal, where she was immobile for two and a half days.
“She survived by the little bit of water that was running into the ditch and she was able to drink,” the county’s top prosecutor said, adding that she was located by a maintenance worker who happened to stop his vehicle where she was lying.
All six of the victims were designated Jane Does in court documents to shield their identities. Hestrin said that they were all adults, with a wide age range, but wouldn’t be more specific.
“All of the victims are recovering at various stages,” Hestrin said.
He expressed confidence in the evidence that had been amassed, saying the investigation was “in-depth and thorough.”
“You had two local law enforcement agencies working on this with the FBI and the D.A.’s office,” Hestrin said.
While investigators believe they’ve covered most or all the bases in the Coachella Valley cases, there may be others connected to the defendant that have not come to light.
Hestrin said Garcia spent time in Orange County, mainly the Westminster area, a decade ago, in addition to residing for an unspecified period in or around Bakersfield. The defendant’s immigration status, including potential illegal entry into the United Status, could not immediately be confirmed. He has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
“There is a concern that there may be other victims,” Hestrin said. “If anyone has information, or this jogs a memory because they had a similar experience to this, we’re asking them to contact us.”
Anyone who wishes to contact investigators can reach out to the Indio Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, or the D.A.’s Bureau of Investigations, which is at 760-863-7809.