The Edmond Sun

Local News

January 31, 2014

I-35 homicide case ends with 1 set free

State dismisses charges against Miguel Angel Garcia

EDMOND — A man charged with first-degree murder — Miguel Angel Garcia — in the Interstate 35 homicide case is expected to be released from jail within 48 hours.

On Dec. 1, 2012, Edmond Police Detective Misty Spence was notified by dispatch about the discovery of a body by a passer-by along Interstate 35 between Danforth and Covell, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Spence in Oklahoma County District Court.

In a previous report, when investigators were working to identify the victim, Edmond Police Department spokeswoman Jenny Monroe said the victim was believed to be working for a roofing company in Oklahoma City.

Spence stated that when she arrived, she found the victim lying on the shoulder of the highway, and a black plastic bag was covering the bottom half of his body.

The victim, who had no ID, suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck area, Spence stated. Due to the lack of blood at the scene, it appeared he was killed in another location and dropped off there, Spence stated.

Cause of death was determined by the state medical examiner’s office to be homicide.

The victim’s fingerprints were sent to federal immigration personnel who identified him as Leopoldo Mejia, aka Jose Mejia-Serranto and Jose Ramirez, the affidavit stated. They reported the victim had been deported out of New Orleans to Honduras.

Authorities also found a money gram for $300 sent from a vacant rent house, one of two where several Hispanic renters had left suddenly the first week of December, the affidavit stated.

Edgardo Garcia said himself, Miguel Angel Garcia and Victor Manuel Santamaria Garcia were drinking at the apartment when an argument occurred, which led to the stabbing, the affidavit stated. Edgardo said they then disposed of Leopoldo’s body, the affidavit stated.

On Feb. 1, 2013, Oklahoma County prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charges against Miguel Angel Garcia, 30, and Victor Manuel Santamaria Garcia, 26, and an accessory after the fact of first-degree murder against Edgardo Garcia, 23, according to court records.

Earlier in the process, all three defendants entered pleas of not guilty.

On Wednesday, Victor Manuel Santamaria Garcia entered a negotiated plea of no contest and was sentenced to 20 years suspended with the first 15 years to serve in prison on an amended charge of manslaughter.

Friday morning, when a preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin, Edgardo Garcia entered a negotiated plea of guilty and was sentenced to 10 years suspended with the first four years to serve in prison on an amended charge of accessory to manslaughter one.

Both defendants received credit for time served.

Friday afternoon, on a motion by the state, the charge against Miguel Angel Garcia was dismissed.

A language barrier was a factor in the case, and a translator was brought to the courthouse.

After the proceedings, public defender Beau Phillips, the attorney for Miguel Angel Garcia, said it is nearly a year to the day his client was booked into the county jail. Phillips said he expects Garcia will be released within 48 hours.

“I think that justice has finally been done for him,” Phillips said as he stood outside the courtroom door. “I do wish it would have been quicker.”

Phillips said it is his belief that as the case proceeded prosecutors learned his client had little or nothing to do with the victim’s death. Despite the slow pace of the case, the United States still has the best legal system in the world with its checks and balances, Phillips said.

Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said new information arose Friday during a translator-aided interview with one of the defendants that led to the dismissal of charges. Rowland said he believes the people were served well and the process ended fairly for Miguel Angel Garcia.

“I think justice was served,” Rowland said.

Rowland also praised the “stellar” detective work and effort put forth by the Edmond Police Department, which involved traveling outside of Oklahoma to gather information.

Phillips said his client was in the country to earn money and to send it back home to family members in Honduras.

TO READ in more detail how detectives built their case against the defendants, see http://tinyurl.com/mgapb6z.

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