Witness testimony conflicts with statements of accused
San Martin – Testimony by a witness to the beating death of Jeffrey Garner conflicted with police statements made by the man accused of his murder, 25-year-old Rogelio ‘Roy’ Roberto Garcia Jr.
Hasan Qaddura, Garcia’s 18-year-old neighbor, testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing that Garner was not armed when Garcia entered a room to break up a fight between the 25-year-old victim and his sometime girlfriend 15-year-old Lydia Mollett.
According to Qaddura’s testimony, Garner was struck from behind with a 3-foot-long metal pipe and did not attempt to attack the suspect with a wooden stick, as Garcia told police. Qaddura felt Mollett’s life was never in danger.
“He had nothing [in his hands],” Qaddura said of Garner. “He never seen it coming.”
Garcia’s lawyer, Esau Ruiz Herrera, has said Garcia acted to save Mollett.
Garner was killed on the night of July 2 at Garcia’s Gilroy home on Duke Drive during a gathering where the four were drinking Bacardi and smoking methamphetamine. An autopsy revealed Garner died from brain damage from a fractured skull. Reports indicated he was struck twice in the back of the head with a metal pipe. A third blow shattered his front teeth and split his lower lip, and Garner’s nose was broken from a fourth hit.
Qaddura testified that Mollett and Garner “were all over each other” and everyone was fine until she said something that set him off.
“It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “[Garner stopped yelling] turned, looked at Roy out of the blue and said, ‘You want to kill me. That’s fine. I know people.'”
After Qaddura told the two to stop fighting, Garcia said, “They do this all the time, don’t worry about it,” the 18-year-old told Deputy District Attorney Dana Overstreet.
Both Garcia and Qaddura left the room during the argument and waited in an adjacent room. Neither tried to intervene further, he said. Garner slammed the door behind them, Qaddura recalled. He heard Mollett and Garner screaming, but denied hearing her call for help or any sound indicating that she was being hit or strangled in the room. He said a body or bed could have bumped against the wall.
Qaddura watched as Garcia picked up a metal pipe, and in a fluent motion, opened the door and struck Garner on the back of the head.
With Garner’s friends and family gathered in San Martin courtroom, Qaddura was the first to testify in the preliminary hearing to determine whether Garcia should stand trial for the murder.
Mollett was scheduled to testify, but Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kenneth L. Shapero dismissed her because she was feeling “under the weather.” She briefly appeared wearing white flip-flops, black-patterned pajama bottoms and a black sweatshirt with the hood covering her head.
Two of Garner’s friends wore white T-shirts with his face and the words ‘Immortal Soul’ on the front. Garcia’s girlfriend sat on the opposite side of the courtroom from the Garner clan.
Garcia was dressed in red pants and wore a black Santa Clara County Department of Corrections T-shirt, his light brown hair buzzed and mustache trimmed. He occasionally looked back at his girlfriend and smiled.
Nicholas Garcia – Roy’s 17-year-old brother – was the second person to testify Thursday.
“He just told me that it was very urgent for me to come home [from a friend’s house],” he said. Once he arrived home, he saw that “[Roy] was very white, he was very frightened.”
A small wooden cross rested upon the knee of Garner’s mother during the testimonies. His father, Jeff Garner Sr., stared at his hands in his lap and appeared lost in thought.
“It’s difficult. It’s like it reopens everything,” Garner Sr. said after court was dismissed. “So far everything seems fine – from what I can tell – the truth. It’s still the beginning. You just have to wait and see.”
The preliminary hearing continues Nov. 8 at 9am.
Garcia’s father, Roy Lopez Garcia, Sr. was convicted in 2000 of the shotgun slaying of Morgan Hill resident Deborah Gregg. The conviction was recently overturned because the trial judge allowed the jury to view the crime scene during deliberations, without counsel. He remains in state prison, waiting to be retried.