Did he kill four people out of revenge?
When the jury saw the crime-scene photos, most of them looked away. One cried. The killer’s first victim, 57-year-old housekeeper Shirlee Sherman, had a knife wound the length of her neck.
Then came the photos of the killer’s second victim, Thomas Hunter, 11, and the multiple stab wounds to his neck, severing his jugular vein and carotid artery.
When their bodies had been found in the Omaha home of Thomas’ dad, Dr William Hunter, on 13 March 2008, the police had called in a criminal profiler.
The killings were classified as a random attack by a transient serial killer. And there, the police had hit a dead end.
For the next five years, the trail went cold.
Until 14 May 2013. The bodies of Dr Roger Brumback and his wife Mary were found in their Omaha home. Murdered.
The police saw similarities in the two crime scenes.
In both cases, the murder weapon was a knife taken from the victims’ homes. Both attacks had happened in the middle of the day and all four victims had been stabbed in the neck.
But there was one even more startling connection. Dr William Hunter, whose son and housekeeper Shirlee had been killed in 2008, worked at Creighton University Medical School Pathology Department.
So did Dr Roger Brumback.
Now, the police were looking for someone who knew both men, and before long they’d found Dr Anthony Garcia.
He’d worked under both men, but in 1999, they’d terminated his contract. Dr Garcia hadn’t behaved with due professionalism.
On occasions, he’d appeared angry at work, and had even shouted at a lab technician. He was erratic, difficult to work with.
Since then, Garcia had struggled to find work as a doctor. Whenever he applied for a new job, his dismissal in 1999 would rear its head.
In February 2008, he was denied a medical licence on account of Hunter and Brumback’s decision.
Later that year, Dr Hunter’s home was broken into, his son and housekeeper murdered.
In September 2012, Garcia applied again for a medical licence. Again, it was turned down on the recommendation of Hunter and Brumback.
Only months later, Dr Brumback’s home was broken into, he and his wife murdered.
Garcia had carried out his appalling crimes as revenge for being fired. Or so the prosecution lawyers argued.
But Garcia’s lawyers insisted it was mere coincidence.
There was nothing that put Garcia at either of the crime scenes. Not a shred of credible physical evidence. And besides, if he’d wanted revenge, why hadn’t he killed Dr Hunter, instead of Dr Hunter’s son and housekeeper?
Easy, said the lawyers for the prosecution. Anthony Garcia had intended to kill Dr Hunter. But when he’d broken into his home, he’d found he wasn’t there.
So he’d done the next best thing. And besides, what revenge could be more cruel than killing a person’s child?
Garcia’s lawyers were right. There was no definitive evidence he’d been into either property or killed any of the four victims.
But there was evidence he’d looked up Dr Brumback’s address online. And mobile phone records, as well as credit-card purchases, put Garcia in Omaha on the day Dr Brumback and his wife were murdered.
Even though Dr Brumback had lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and Garcia lived almost 600 miles away in Indiana.
And the lawyers argued the wounds inflicted showed a degree of medical knowledge.
Whoever had killed those four people had done so by slitting the two key vessels in the neck – the jugular vein and the carotid artery.
But Garcia wasn’t the only person who’d know where those vessels were. In fact, anyone could find out, just by doing an Internet search.
Crime-scene investigation expert Brent Turvey was called to the stand for his opinion.
‘A wound to the neck is so common, it’s not even funny,’ he told the court. ‘It’s definitely not distinct or unique.’
His evidence was a blow to the prosecution. Because although the crime scenes looked similar, there was nothing solid to prove the murders had even been committed by the same person.
The jury had one question to answer – would a disgraced doctor murder four people because his career had stalled?
Garcia had been unprofessional back in the 90s. But that didn’t make him a murderer.
Could anyone seriously believe Garcia had driven all the way from his home to Omaha, found his victims’ homes, broken in and committed four murders…just because of his long-simmering rage over his failed career?
Perhaps the crime-scene profiler had been right. This was the work of an unknown, transient killer or killers.
With the crime-scene photos fresh in their minds, the jury retired to consider the case…
In October, Anthony Garcia was found guilty of the four murders.
‘He didn’t have to take multiple people’s lives because he was jealous and angry,’ Carol Brumback, sister of victim Roger, said after the hearing.
Garcia was also found guilty of four counts of use of a deadly weapon and one of burglary.
He could face the death penalty for his crimes, but judges are yet to decide on his sentence.