A once ‘devoted’ father murdered his sleeping children. Why? A chilling video-recording revealed the reason… Revenge.
A quiet neighbourhood in Los Angeles appeared to have slept soundly on 19 February 2002.
Until, around 6am, when a grandmother smelt smoke as she unlocked the front door to the home of her six young grandchildren…
Inside, she was met with a nightmare scene. The innocent children, aged between 2 and 10, lay in their beds, smothered by deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
One girl, Kassandra, 9, was unconscious – as was the dad, Adair Javier Garcia, 30, found beside a smouldering barbecue in the hallway.
Firefighters arrived at 6.30am to find Brenda, 10, Jonathan, 6, and Anthony, 2, dead in their pyjamas.
Sadly, Cecilia, 4, and Vanessa, 6, died in hospital, while Kassandra and Adair received treatment for carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Investigators initially believed the children had died following a tragic attempt by Adair to heat the family home in the Pico Rivera area of LA.
But, as the children’s mother, Adriana Ibeth Arreola, arrived on the scene, it became clear all was not as it seemed.
A neighbour said that when deputies refused to let Adriana into the house, she became hysterical.
‘Let me see my kids… I know he did it,’ she reportedly yelled.
Meanwhile, authorities discovered the gas heaters in the home were working. This was no accident.
An inspector with the Fire Department said that 25 parts per million of carbon monoxide is considered unsafe – and early tests at the house showed 214 parts per million.
‘With all that carbon monoxide, and nowhere to go, basically you have a gas chamber,’ he explained.
Recovering in hospital, Adair Garcia was charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
But what had happened to make him carry out this twisted murder-suicide attempt?
Authorities discovered the pair’s marriage had been on the rocks. Adriana had moved out a week before, and Adair had spoken of depression and revenge.
Garcia was described by neighbours and co-workers as a ‘devoted’ family man.
The Garcias had moved to the area in December. Adriana was a homemaker, and the family was described as close-knit and loving.
But, in February 2002, Adriana had left the family home.
Had the breakdown of his marriage led Adair to commit such a heinous act of revenge?
At his trial in March 2005, Garcia’s defence portrayed him as a doting father who spent his free time with his family.
They claimed Garcia’s depression after his wife left him ‘impaired his ability to think straight’.
But prosecutors presented damning home-video evidence of Garcia, filmed on the night of the incident.
Addressing Adriana, Garcia said, ‘I love you. I’m of sound mind and I know what I’m doing. I just want to let you know this is the only option available. You’ve broken me. You don’t care, so I don’t care. What I’m about to commit is the most cowardly, selfish act possible.’
Next came footage showing the children in pyjamas, recounting what they did that day – they’d been to see a Peter Pan movie at the cinema…
Coached by their dad, they told their mother they loved her and said ‘goodbye’, presumably unaware of their father’s intentions.
‘We’re going to go to sleep and dream beautiful dreams of what life used to be… We’re going to a better place, a painless place,’ Garcia said.
The prosecution argued these messages showed pre-meditation.
But a psychiatrist who testified for the defence said Garcia had delusions he and his family could fly to Peter Pan’s Neverland.
After disconnecting the smoke detector and phone, Garcia enclosed the rooms with towels and blankets. Then he set the barbecue alight and lay down beside his sleeping children…
It took the jury just over a day to find Adair Javier Garcia, then 34, guilty of the five counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
In June 2005, Superior Court Judge John A Torribio described the tragic killings as ‘an event beyond comprehension’.
He sentenced Garcia to life without the possibility of parole.
‘He doesn’t deserve to be on the face of the Earth,’ the children’s uncle, Arturo Arreola, said after the trial.
Meanwhile, the children’s grandmother said the family was focusing on the surviving child, Kassandra.
Adair Garcia will spend a long time considering Neverland from his jail cell.
And, like Peter Pan, the tragic Garcia kids will never grow up.