Chief: Alberto Garcia is a criminal

Alberto Garcia. Image source: Harrison County Sheriff's Department.
Alberto Garcia. Image source: Harrison County Sheriff's Department.

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Alberto Garcia appeared emotionless as he was escorted by sheriff's deputies to the front of the jail courtroom Friday morning in shackles and a jumpsuit. The lack of emotion was no surprise to Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania.

"He's a criminal," Papania said.

Garcia is charged with sexually assaulting and killing 5-year-old Janaya Thompson. Court documents obtained by WLOX News state Garcia implicated himself in both crimes and admitted he tried to destroy evidence.

The documents also say that during an interview with police, Garcia gave details about the crimes that only the perpetrator and detectives would know.

Garcia went on to tell police his DNA and fingerprints would be found at the trailer where Janaya was found dead. He said he burglarized the trailer on July 12, and stole two jackets, a pornographic magazine, a movie disk and blackout curtains. Garcia is also facing separate charges for burglary.

Papania and one of his investigators sat in the front row of the courtroom on Friday to hear what the judge and Garcia had to say.

"It's an important case," Papania said. "I have talked to that family, and it's a special family and that was a special little girl. I told them that we would seek justice for her, and I'm going to follow this case all the way through."

Papania said charging Garcia is just the first step in seeking justice for young Janaya, a child the whole community is mourning.

Candles, stuffed animals, cards and balloons surround the apartment where Janaya once called home and outside the trailer where her lifeless body was discovered.

"We are still continuing to move forward in this investigation," Papania said. "Obviously, Julian Gray remains a person of interest. There is a lot of evidence being processed now and still being collected so we continue to move forward."

Gray remains behind bars on unrelated charges of sexual battery and rape. According to court papers, the incidents happened in March and April, and both charges were filed by the same victim.

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