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Doctor Charged with Capital Murder of Medical School Professors

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Dr. Anthony Garcia was a resident at the Creighton University Pathology program from 2000 to 2001. He was fired for his "erratic behavior."

A Terre Haute, Indiana, doctor has been charged with four counts of capital murder of victims associated with the Creighton University Medical School pathology program, where he was fired from their residency program more than a decade ago.

Dr. Anthony Garcia could face the death penalty if he is convicted of killings that occurred five years apart from each other. In March 2008, Creighton University pathology professor Dr. William Hunter’s 11-year-old son, Thomas, and housekeeper Shirlee Sherman were stabbed to death in the Hunter’s Omaha home.

“The state has a heavy burden, and we’re going to put them to the test,” said Dr. Garcia’s attorneys,  Robert Motta, II and Alison Motta of Motta & Motta, LLC. Both are members of The National Trial Lawyers top 100 attorneys.

Double murders linked

The Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman murders remained unsolved for the five years leading up to the deaths of Creighton pathology professor Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary Brumback, who were found shot and stabbed in their home on May 14, 2013. The two double murders were linked together by a task force studying the killings. Dr. Garcia made an online search for the Brumback home address on May 12, 2013.  Phone records and a convenience store surveillance video indicate Dr. Garcia was in the area of the Brumback’s home on the same day as well.

Dr. Garcia is also being charged with attempted burglary for an attempted break-in on May 12, 2013 of another Creighton University pathologist, Dr. Chhandra Bewtra’s Omaha home. According to testimony by Omaha Detective Derek Mois at an August 2014 hearing, Dr. Garcia had made an online search for the address of Dr. Bewtra on May 10, 2013. Credit card purchases and phone records also put him in the area on May 12,2013.  DNA evidence found on Dr. Bewtra’s door was not a direct match to Dr. Garcia, but was determined to belong to a Hispanic male, according to Dr. Garcia’s attorney’s office.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

To prove a capital murder charge, Nebraska law requires the prosecutor to prove each element of capital murder, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. A person kills another person purposely and with deliberate premeditated malice
  2. Or while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate another felony crime.
  3. To show purposeful and deliberate premeditated malice, it must be proven that the accused had the specific intent to kill the victims, and that the intent was formed before the act is committed.

The death penalty can be considered when there are aggravating circumstances to the murder. According to the charges against Dr. Garcia, the aggravating circumstances are that the murder was committed in an effort to conceal the commission of a crime or the identity of the perpetrator, the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, and that another murder was committed at the time of the murder.

“My client is innocent,” Robert Motta Jr. reported to Omaha KMTV news, who has also filed a motion to have Dr. Garcia arrest thrown out, as it was done improperly without an active arrest warrant, which was not signed until after Garcia’s arrest. Garcia and his attorneys are waiting for the judge to decide if the arrest was done properly. Dr. Garcia was arrested  during a traffic stop in which he was under the influence of alcohol and had a .45 caliber handgun in the car with him.  He was cooperative and informed arresting officers the gun was in his vehicle.

Decades of circumstantial evidence

Six weeks after Dr. Garcia’s arrest,  a truck driver found pieces of a gun that match one purchased by Dr. Garcia.  According to the defense attorneys, the truck driver on the 911 call indicated that he had stopped for a break at the location he found the gun pieces before, and had not seen the gun pieces before that day.  The gun pieces were found after Dr. Garcia was already arrested.  Gun pieces left at the Brumback home are the same type of model of gun, but are not directly tied to the gun pieces found or the gun purchased by Dr. Garcia, according to the Motta attorneys.

Dr. Garcia’s attorneys are searching through a decade’s worth of roughly 50,000 documents, reports and data in preparation for trial. According to a World-Herald report of Dr. Garcia’s September hearing, the Motta attorneys have asked the prosecutor for Dr. Brumback’s journals, possible revealing that he feared for his life from someone other than Dr. Garcia, but prosecutors report they have provided all evidence they have.

"It's a lot to handle when if you make a mistake the wrong person dies, and that can't be undone," said attorney Alison Motta.  At this point, there is no physical evidence placing Dr. Garcia at the any of the Creighton professor’s homes.  The prosecutors have linked Garcia to the Creighton killings based on a connection made that he was fired from their residency program in 2001 and phone and GPS records placing him in the Omaha area in May of 2013.

“We are trying to figure out who killed them, because I don’t believe it is Anthony Garcia,” Alison Motta said.  The Mottas have experience in high-profile capital murder cases, as Robert Motta Sr. defended Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  Dr. Anthony Garcia’s trial is expected to commence in the fall of 2015.

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