Prosecutors: DNA evidence links Garcia to girl's murder
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Family members, friends and concerned community members poured into the Harrison County courthouse Friday under tightened security seeking justice for Janaya Thompson.
Silence swept over the crowd as the capital murder suspect, Alberto Garcia, was brought inside. Once Garcia was seated, Gulfport Police Detective Samuel Jewell took the stand.
As Jewell told the court all the gruesome details of the crime Garcia is accused of, the suspect sat emotionless on one side of the room. Janaya's loved ones wiped away tears on the other side of the court.
"We found Janaya Thompson with her back was against the west wall," Jewell said. "She was hung with what we know now as two pairs of socks and that was attached to a metal bar in a small window attached to above the tub. She was suspended."
In a matter of hours, the detective testified they were at Garcia's apartment asking to speak with him.
"Alberto Garcia started telling detectives, 'Hey, my fingerprints might be in that trailer where the little girl was found,'" Jewell said.
Jewell testified Garcia told police he went in the trailer days before the murder and took several items. At that point during the questioning, Jewell said Garcia was read his Miranda rights and was arrested for burglary. But Jewell said Garcia continued talking to investigators.
Jewell said Garcia told investigators he was at his apartment playing video games the night Janaya was murdered and he may have blacked out. He said he smelled feces on himself and does not know what happened and went and took a shower. After Garcia told detectives that story, Detective Jewell said Garcia began asking investigators questions.
"He asked about the evidence they had and asked did it point to him being responsible for Janaya's death," Jewell said.
After asking those questions, Jewell said Garcia asked for an attorney and investigators stopped asking Garcia questions.
Five days later, Jewell said he received a handwritten note from the jail written by Garcia saying he wanted to talk. Jewell said Garcia told him he was worried about seeing his mother and about the burglary charge against him. Jewell said he read Garcia his Miranda rights again and Garcia kept talking. This time Jewell said Garcia's story changed.
"He said he went to the door and said Julian Gray was standing there," Jewell testified. "He said that Gray said he had an incident with a little girl and that he needed help."
Jewell said Garcia told police he went to the trailer with Gray and saw Janaya face down in the bedroom on a green chair. Jewell testified Garcia then told them he helped Gray try and rinse evidence off of Janaya and hang the young girl over the bathtub.
After tying the socks around Janaya's neck, Garcia told police he went back to his apartment and took a shower.
"He heard a knock at the door and that was one of the family members that was familiar with him saying that Janaya Thompson was missing," Jewell testified about what Garcia said. "He actually went out with either the family or other folks and said he actually pretended to look for her."
Detective Jewell told the court Garcia's stories are not adding up with the evidence.
"We received a preliminary DNA test from the anal swab taken from Janaya Thompson's autopsy," Jewell said. "The result is that Gray's DNA was not present, but Garcia's DNA was present.
Detective Jewell told the court there are more than 100 pieces of evidence at the FBI crime lab right now and investigators are waiting to get more results back to see if Julian Gray will also be charged with Janaya's murder. Currently, Gray is in jail on unrelated charges.
Janaya's parents were not in the courtroom Friday. A friend of the family told WLOX they were too distraught to sit through the hearing. Gulfport Chief of Police Leonard Papaina was amongst those in the courtroom.
"You heard the details today. It's a painful thing and it's just something we have to continue to seek justice," Papania said. "We still an open investigation and we still have some work to do."
Papania said he was not surprised to see standing room only in the courtroom.
"It's an extended family and it's our community and, again, I just tell you my heart goes out to them and I'm proud of how they are doing," Papania said.
Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Herman Cox said he will pursue the death penalty for Garcia.
"In my 35 years of practice of law," Cox said, "I've never seen a more brutal and senseless killing. This defendant is just pure evil and the death penalty is justified in this case. I think the only proper penalty in a case like this would be the death sentence, but that's up to a jury, of course, to decide."
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