When Anthony Garcia walked into the room in Terre Haute, Indiana, the music would stop.
The emcee would lean into the microphone.
“Hey, everyone,” he’d bellow. “Let’s welcome Dr. Tony to the club.”
This wasn’t a meeting of the Greater Terre Haute Medical Society. Or the annual ball at Terre Haute Country Club.
It was Club Koyote — a strip club where Garcia made his rounds two to three times a week.
And it was that one-story, tan-clapboard building that produced the critical witness who connects Garcia to the 2008 killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57:
Cecilia Hoffmann, a former exotic dancer and current Red Lobster waitress.
In the most dramatic testimony of Garcia’s trial — one that ended with Garcia’s attorney shouting and Hoffmann in tears — the 26-year-old woman took the stand Thursday and told jurors that she had tried to distance herself from her best customer, “Dr. Tony,” by telling him that she only dated bad boys.
“He said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve killed people before,’ ” Hoffmann said. “I said, ‘Oh, please, you’ve never killed anybody.’ ”
The young woman looked down. She wrapped her long hair behind an ear.
“He said he had,” Hoffmann recounted. “I said, ‘All right, well, tell me about it.’ ”
“He goes, ‘Well, it was an old woman and a young boy.’ ”
The comment was so creepy, so off-kilter, that Hoffmann dropped it. She believed that Garcia was just being his usual odd self.
“At the time, I thought, ‘This is the reason I’m not talking to you (anymore),’ ” Hoffmann said. “ ‘Because even your jokes are creepy.’ ”
Authorities say it was no joke, it was a confession. And while several items point to Garcia being in Omaha on the May 2013 day that Roger and Mary Brumback were killed, Hoffmann may provide prosecutors their strongest connection to the killings of Thomas and Sherman.
Anthony Garcia trial: Evidence photos
A sample of evidence presented at the trial of Anthony Garcia. Complete trial coverage at Omaha.com/garcia.