Anthony Garcia’s day of reckoning has come.
Friday, the former Creighton pathology resident-turned-serial killer will find out his fate in the revenge-fueled slayings of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman in March 2008 and of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, in May 2013.
Judges Gary Randall and Russell Bowie of Omaha and Ricky Schreiner of southeast Nebraska will decide whether Garcia receives the death penalty or life in prison. Garcia was convicted in October 2016 of killing the four as a result of his festering grudge over his 2001 firing from Creighton.
“It’s been a long road,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Thursday. “We need to bring this to a close for everyone involved.”
Put in numbers, it has been:
» 3,838 days — 10 years, 6 months — since Garcia stumbled his way through Omaha’s historic Dundee neighborhood on a sunny afternoon, made his way into the home of his former boss, Dr. William Hunter, and knifed to death Hunter’s youngest son, Thomas, 11, and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman, a mother and grandma who cleaned the Hunters’ house.
» 1,952 days — 5 years, 4 months — since Garcia reared his head again on a sun-splashed Sunday near 114th and Pacific Streets. After an alarm scared him away from the home of another former boss, Dr. Chhanda Bewtra, Garcia stopped and ate some chicken wings before finding his way to the home of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary. The Brumbacks — packing and painting their house after Roger had retired from his Creighton University post — were ambushed. Garcia shot Roger in the Brumbacks’ foyer, then brawled with Mary before finally killing her.
» 1,887 days — 5 years and 2 months — since Garcia was arrested on his way to Louisiana State University, with only a gun, a crowbar, a sledgehammer and an LSU lab coat in his car. Authorities say he was on his way to kill another professor there.
» 668 days — almost two years — since a jury convicted him of the four killings.
In the time since, the man who used to ask that everyone call him “Dr. Tony” hasn’t responded to anyone, no matter what they have called him. Not to Judge Randall, who has often referred to him as “Doctor,” though Garcia only barely held a medical license. Not to his own attorneys. Not even to his parents.
Instead, Garcia has been forcibly removed from his cell on the day of each hearing and hauled to court. He has slumped in his wheelchair, his eyes closed and his torso curled like his overgrown toenails. He either sleeps or feigns it.
It’s a far cry from the once thin and smiling and braggadocious defendant. Taking on the persona of his brash former attorneys, he once told a World-Herald editor: “When I go free, I plan to tell my story to ‘60 Minutes’ for millions. My attorneys and I were talking, ‘We’re going to kick their ass.’ You can print that.”
Then came the blitz of evidence. The stripper who testified that he made a bizarre comment about being a bad boy, about killing a young boy and an old lady. The neighbors who described a Honda CRV that resembled the one Garcia drove. The surveillance video that showed Garcia buying a case of beer on his way into Omaha on Mother’s Day 2013. DNA on a door handle that generally traced back to Garcia. Parts of a gun — broken as Mary Brumback fought for her life — that led back to Garcia.
The trademark poking and prodding and cutting along the necks of his victims — befitting a former pathology resident. The pile of rejection letters after Brumback and William Hunter informed others that Creighton had fired Garcia, back in 2001.
As the evidence mounted, Garcia seemed to shrink in court. He went from scoffing and scribbling notes in protest during pretrial hearings to sleeping during the sentencing phase of the case.
Sherman’s brother, Brad Waite, said he expects more of the same Friday.
“He’ll just sit there and pretend he’s asleep,” Waite said. “He’s never showed any emotion yet. I don’t know why it would change (Friday).”
Waite said he has a “million things” going through his mind. His big sister was a hardworking, salt-of-the-earth grandmother with six grandkids, a garden and “a lot of years left to live.”
Friday “is going to be a tough day,” Waite said. “It’s just been a long road. I really can’t take my mind off of it.”