In February 2013 — a month after getting fired from one of his last medical jobs — Anthony Garcia asked a strip club worker to find a prostitute for him.
The worker initially declined, then obliged. The woman arrived — and Garcia couldn’t perform. So he asked the strip club employee to find him a less-plump prostitute. The employee declined, saying he wasn’t running a “find-a-prostitute service.”
At that, Garcia muttered: “Mother(expletives) are going to get what they deserve.”
Three months after that, Garcia drove to Omaha and, in the middle of Mother’s Day, raised a gun, shot Dr. Roger Brumback and then stabbed both Brumback and his wife, Mary, to death near 114th and Pacific Streets.
The May 2013 killing came five years after Garcia knifed to death 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman. Garcia committed both sets of killings as revenge for Dr. William Hunter and Dr. Brumback firing him from Creighton University Medical Center in 2001.
The specific mitigating factors that Garcia’s defense team says weigh against the death penalty: that Garcia had little history of criminal behavior; that mental illness made him unable to appreciate how wrong his conduct was; and that the crime was committed while the offender was under the influence of extreme mental disturbance.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Chief Deputy Brenda Beadle disagree that Garcia didn’t comprehend his conduct, noting his attempts to cover his tracks in each killing. Moreover, Kleine argues, the 10 aggravating factors that jurors found to merit the death penalty outweigh any mitigators that would weigh against it.
When it comes to Garcia’s ability to understand the wrongfulness of his conduct, police and prosecutors presented evidence for a motive for the four murders, including bad work reviews, his termination letter and another note declaring him unfit for the medical profession.
On Friday, it was Garcia’s defense team that threw everything and the kitchen sink at the three judges who will decide whether Garcia gets life or death. Judges Gary Randall, Russell Bowie and Ricky Schreiner are expected to announce their decision in a month or two.
Quick hits from Friday’s testimony:
» Garcia, who nearly killed himself in 2004-05, was suicidal after getting fired from his last job, a family medical practice in January 2013. He had shown up drunk — and was fired shortly thereafter.
He then went to a hospital three times in the next day or two. In one of those trips, he told a nurse: “There is a part of me that wants to go home to the closet in my bedroom, get the gun out of the safe, load it and shoot myself.”
» Garcia sometimes got decent reviews. Two Chicago-area doctors said he did adequate work. His last residency — at Louisiana State University — started out well. A supervising doctor wrote: “Anthony is kind, well-mannered and intelligent but has significant problems with ... integration of the details into a big picture.”
Then officials found out the big picture of Garcia: that he had lied on his application about the reasons for his departure from Creighton. He was fired. Three weeks later, he killed Thomas and Sherman.
» In January 2013, Garcia was found sprawled on his living-room floor, surrounded by 30 empty beer cans and a gun. Officials seized his gun but he eventually got another one.
» After killing the Brumbacks, Garcia managed to get hired again. He was supposed to perform physical examinations of employees for an Illinois company. But when he arrived, he simply sat in his car, listening to music. A worker walked up to his car to ask him to get started. Garcia lashed out, telling the woman he would work when he wanted.
As he entered the building, he told a couple male workers to “fellate” him. Asked to leave, he challenged some of the workers to fight him. On his way out of the parking lot, he threw his ID card, hard hat and safety glasses out the car window at a gate where a guard sat.
» Garcia stopped talking to his family after his brother and parents supported the appeal of a judge removing his former attorney, Alison Motta. He reportedly hasn’t spoken to them since — and again refused to speak to his mother, Estella, on Friday.
» Garcia continually prescribed himself a stew of medications — an ethical violation that could have cost him his medical license. Among the drugs: several antidepressants, erectile dysfunction pills, steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone boosters.
» Garcia had gastric bypass surgery — which can lead to vitamin deficiencies, especially in someone who drinks as much as Garcia did, said Kirk Newring, a psychologist who reviewed Garcia’s file.
» Newring concluded that Garcia suffered from mental illness — in part evidenced by his suicide attempts, reports of depression, even his belief that he had bugs under his skin. On that last note, prosecutor Brenda Beadle countered that Garcia’s landlord actually paid $400 for a bedbug eradication after Garcia’s reports.
» Garcia also suffered from “testosterone intoxication,” Newring concluded.
Beadle questioned how Newring could make the testosterone conclusion — noting that the only test given to Garcia showed normal levels.
“You don’t have any evidence whatsoever,” Beadle told Newring. “You didn’t see him inject anything. And nobody told you they saw him inject himself. You don’t know if he would shoot himself up. You don’t know what he did.”
Newring noted that Garcia prescribed himself testosterone boosters and repeatedly refilled the prescriptions. Beadle countered that Garcia also once did a Google search: “illegal ways that physicians can make money.”
One of those, Beadle suggested: selling testosterone-enhancing drugs.
When it comes to the killings, Newring concluded that Garcia was acting under extreme pressures and that mental illness clouded his ability to know right from wrong.
Beadle countered by citing all the calculated steps that Garcia took to kill in Omaha. Disguising his license plate. Wearing gloves. Concealing his identity. Driving hundreds of miles. Fleeing town immediately after the killings. Buying new car mats to replace his old ones.
Even after his arrest, he told authorities he didn’t want to say anything because “it might hurt his case.”
Jeff Sherman, Shirlee’s son, spent part of last week watching Garcia’s defense. He called the evidence of Garcia’s behavior leading up to the killings a “prequel” of what Garcia became.
“Watching this is like watching the creating of a monster,” Sherman said. “I have a hard time believing that the guy sitting in there is mentally ill. I think he knows what he’s doing.
“He’s not a doctor to me. He’s not a human being to me. He’s a monster.”