By Jose Medina
WOODLAND – An unhoused defendant here—despite, by all law enforcement investigative and witness accounts, being the victim of harassment—is now being held for murder of her apparent assailant.
Defendant Esther Garcia was present for her preliminary hearing here this week in Yolo County Superior Court, Dept. 14, charged with murder and use of a deadly weapon.
According to witnesses at the scene of the incident, on Oct. 7, 2020, Garcia was pushing a shopping cart toward her broken down vehicle in a parking lot. A vehicle pulled up near her, the driver then got out of the vehicle, yelled at Garcia, and started taking things away from Garcia’s shopping cart.
As Garcia pulled out a knife, the driver then approached Garcia to disarm her and was stabbed resulting in her death. Garcia then dropped the knife and tried to apply pressure to the victim’s wounds and waved law enforcement over as they arrived.
Months prior to the incident, Officer Cameron Simpson was called to investigate a disturbance in West Sacramento, and found Garcia standing on the sidewalk with a skinned knee and a swollen eye.
He recalled that Garcia told him that the victim “punched her about 10 times.” Garcia also told Officer Simpson that the victim “grabbed her by the hair, pulled her to the ground, and dragged her about two feet.”
Officer Simpson also recalled finding a lump of Garcia’s hair on the ground at the scene of the incident, and that it was clear that the victim had an aggressive animosity towards Garcia.
Officer Scott Farnsworth took part in the investigation of this prior incident. He reviewed Officer Simpson’s body camera footage and remembered seeing an elderly woman approach Officer Simpson and frantically tell him “the blonde did it,” indicating that the victim assaulted Garcia.
Officer Farnsworth added that Garcia gave statements in body camera footage noting “she was standing on the street when a person known to her as Shelly was riding by on her bicycle and she asked what she was looking at and she got off her bicycle and attacked her.”
The victim’s assault on Garcia acted as a prelude to the incident that took place on Oct. 7.
Detective William Silvermaster investigated the incident and stated that he found Garcia’s backpack in the victim’s car. He said that he knew it was Garcia’s after finding letters from the Police Department addressed to her.
Detective Silvermaster interviewed a witness that was in the parking lot of where the incident took place. The witness told him that the victim “exited her vehicle, walked over to Garcia, walked back to her vehicle and grabbed belongings from Garcia’s shopping cart.”
Garcia apparently was not the only person the victim had harassed in the past.
Detective Silvermaster said he spoke with a civilian employee of the Sacramento Police Department who works to provide resources to the homeless community, and that person mentioned that he was familiar with both Garcia and the victim.
That employee added that other unhoused people in the community have been harassed by the victim in the past, and Silvermaster recalled that the civilian employee “indicated that Esther Garcia had come to him in the past for housing, due to being harassed by the victim.”
Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub asked Detective Silvermaster if the civilian employee ever mentioned whether Garcia had been violent in the past. The detective replied that the civilian employee “said that he didn’t have any info of Garcia being dangerous or threatening and that she was kind of timid.”
In an effort to assist Garcia’s case, Assistant Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke passionately implored the court to look at the totality of the situation. Garcia had been previously harassed by the victim, the victim had a reputation for harassing other unhoused people, and Garcia attempted to provide aid to the victim after the stabbing.
Gocke made a case that Garcia had no malicious intent to kill the victim and that the victim had been the one who provoked Garcia and argued that she acted justifiably. Gocke also asked the court to set a bail amount for Garcia.
Despite hearing circumstances that led to the Oct. 7 incident, Judge Dave Rosenberg found sufficient evidence to charge Garcia with murder and use of a deadly weapon. Judge Rosenberg also denied the defense’s request to set a bail amount, noting that Garcia has previous allegations of a prior conviction and of being a habitual criminal.
The arraignment for a jury trial is scheduled to take place on Feb. 24, 9 a.m.
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
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