Former Creighton resident arrested in connection with 2 Omaha double homicides

 

A former Creighton University pathology resident has been arrested in connection with the two double homicides with ties to the university's department.

Anthony J. Garcia, 40, was arrested on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder, Omaha Chief Todd Schmaderer announced this afternoon at a press conference.

Two double homicides in 2008 and 2013 "caused great concern for the Omaha community," Schmaderer said.

"Today I am able to provide a sense of closure."

Schmaderer said law enforcement officials had planned to serve a search warrant at Garcia's house tomorrow in Terre Haute, Ind. But they arrested him today in Illinois after he was pulled over.

He had a .45 caliber handgun in the car and was showing signs of alcohol impairment, according to Schmaderer.

Anthony J. Garcia

Garcia had been a doctoral resident at Creighton until Dr. Roger Brumback and William Hunter fired him.

Police said they think he committed the homicides on his own, but Schmaderer said the investigation is continuing with search warrants being served in other states.

Garcia is accused with the double homicide of Brumback, the former chairman of Creighton University's department of pathology, and his wife, Mary.

They were found dead in their home near 114th and Shirley Streets on May 14.

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Photo gallery: Double homicide victims

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Garcia was also arrested in connection with the March 2008 killings of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old housekeeper Shirlee Sherman in the Dundee home of the Hunter family.

The Omaha Police special task force had been monitoring Garcia's movements for a period of time, Schmaderer said. Members of the special task force flew out of Omaha on Sunday to various states across the country to serve search warrants related to Garcia. Schmaderer wouldn't name which states. Those investigators were still out of the state Monday.

Garcia was pulled over during a traffic stop by the Illinois State Police Monday morning.

“It is imperative that I do not divulge too much of the evidence law enforcement has on this case because it is ongoing prosecution and I don't want to damage that aspect,” Schmaderer said. Schmaderer said he doesn't think the boy and the housekeeper were the targets.

Thomas Hunter's parents, William and Claire Hunter, are longtime faculty members at Creighton. He works in the pathology department.

William Hunter said his family and others associated with Creighton would rest more easily knowing an arrest had been made.

"Obviously, we're relieved,'' he said. He declined further comment.

Schmaderer said police notified the victim's family and Creighton of the arrest before he announced it to the public.

Brad Waite was starting to doubt that his sister's killer would ever be found.

“You get the feeling that the longer it takes them to sove the case, the harder it's going to be,” he said. “The guy could have stepped in front of a bus and be dead by now.”

Waite's sister, housekeeper Shirlee Sherman, had been vacuuming in the Hunter house and didn't hear her killer come in the door, he said. Waite thinks she was taken by surprise, stabbed and was “dead before she hit the floor.”

Waite said the family was looking forward to moving on, but they're upset that an arrest wasn't made before the Brumbacks were killed.

Monday was the first time Waite, or anyone in the Sherman family, had heard Garcia's name as a potential suspect.

“We're relieved they got the guy,” he said. “We're pretty upset, though, that two more people had to die before they got the job done. That's tragic.”

The Rev. Tim Lannon, president of Creighton University, issued a statement late Monday stating that the university and especially the School of Medicine and Department of Pathology are grateful for the work of the police department and the special task force.

“We continue to keep those affected by these events in our thoughts and prayers. And we continue to pray for all of the special task force members still executing search warrants throughout the country,” Lannon said.

In a statement Monday, Mayor Jean Stothert commended Schmaderer for creating the task force that led to Garcia's arrest in the murders.

"These cases put Omaha neighborhoods and the Creighton Universtiy medical staff on alert for the last five years. Tonight, you can be confident the Omaha Police Department never forgot about this case," Stothert said in the statement.

Schmaderer said Garcia fits "the elements of a serial killer."

"We did not feel this individual would stop unless an arrest was made," Schmaderer said.

Garcia had not lived in Omaha since he was fired in 2001, but police believe he visited in 2008 and this year.

Schmaderer said Garcia was fired for erratic behavior.

"America's Most Wanted" profiled the Hunter and Sherman case last year.

In response to the homicides, Schmaderer announced the formation of a task force in May made up of Omaha police officers and FBI agents that worked with other local law enforcement agencies.

Schmaderer said today that he didn't think Garcia would have been arrested without the task force. In addition, an FBI behavioral analysis unit helped with the investigation.

Schmaderer said he didn't think Garcia knew that he was being investigated.

Schmaderer declined to say whether he believes there were other targets.

The Victims

Timeline: Major events in two double homicides being investigated by task force

March 13, 2008: The bodies of 11-year-old Thomas C. Hunter and the family's house cleaner, Shirlee Sherman, 57, are found at 303 N. 54th St.

March 14, 2008: Police release a sketch of man being sought for questioning in the slayings.

March 16, 2008: Dr. Roger Brumback, a Hunter family friend, tells The World-Herald that the Creighton University medical community is stunned by the slayings. “The biggest interest we have, and what everybody was asking yesterday, is, 'Who could have done this and why?'”

March 19, 2008: Funerals are held for Shirlee Sherman at Westlawn-Hillcrest Memorial Park and for Thomas Hunter at St. John Catholic Church.

March 20, 2008: Omaha Crime Stoppers offers a $25,000 reward for a tip leading to an arrest.

Early April: The FBI joins the Omaha homicide investigation.

Jan. 21, 2009: A “Law & Order” episode features a fictional crime sharply reminiscent of the Omaha case. Two university biologists come home to find their young son and housekeeper killed. Witnesses describe a mysterious, well-dressed man carrying a briefcase.

February 2009: Omaha Crime Stoppers' reward doubles to $50,000.

June 11, 2010: A bronze sculpture of Thomas Hunter is dedicated outside the Creighton Cardiac Center.

July 2012: Omaha Crime Stoppers' reward increases to $54,000.

Aug. 3, 2012: “America's Most Wanted” airs a segment about the unsolved Omaha case.

May 14, 2013: The bodies of Dr. Roger Brumback and Mary Brumback, both 65, are discovered in their home at 11421 Shirley St.

May 16, 2013: The Omaha police cold-case unit begins investigating any connection between the Brumbacks' deaths and the slayings of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman.

May 16, 2013: Members of First Responders Homicide Prayer-Walks hold an evening prayer vigil outside the Brumback home.

May 20, 2013: Police Chief Todd Schmaderer announces that a multi-agency task force has begun looking into possible ties between the Brumbacks' deaths and the 2008 killings of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman.

June 21, 2013: The Douglas County Coroner's Office reports that Dr. Roger Brumback, 65, was shot to death and that Mary Brumback, also 65, died of stab wounds.

July 15, 2013: Schmaderer announces the arrest of Anthony Garcia of Terre Haute, Ind., on four counts of murder in the slayings of Dr. Roger Brumback, Mary Brumback, Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman.

World-Herald researcher Sheritha Jones and staff writer Alissa Skelton contributed to this report.

Video of the press conference


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