2015-12-16 / State

Man ordered to stand trial in death of girlfriend

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man was ordered on Tuesday to stand trial in Philadelphia in the death of his live-in girlfriend, whose body was found a year ago in the trunk of a sedan parked at a southern New Jersey hotel.

A judge ruled there was enough evidence to send the case against Jesus Garcia, 42, to trial in the death of 38-year-old Maria Santiago, The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit. ly/1lMVmVB ) reported.

Santiago’s body was found in December 2014 in the vehicle parked at the Quality Inn in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Burlington County medical examiner Ian Hood testified that the body showed no signs of struggle or trauma but was wrapped in paint-stained blankets in the trunk of her sedan. Authorities said the victim’s Olney house had been trashed and there were drag marks on the porch as if someone had pulled a body through paint.

The car was equipped with a data communication system that allowed it to be tracked to the motel, and authorities said surveillance cameras showed a driver identified as Garcia leaving the car and entering the motel, where he had registered and was arrested.

Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn said Garcia gave several statements to police, contending that Santiago left the Olney house the previous afternoon and never returned, but neighbors reported hearing a loud argument that evening into the early morning hours.

Defense attorney Wendy Ramos challenged the validity of her client’s statements to police, saying he was so drunk he vomited during interviews.

She also argued that he should face a charge no more severe than 3rd-degree murder, saying the autopsy showed no injuries indicating a specific intent to kill.

Kirn, however, argued that body-sized holes in the drywall of Santiago’s house suggested a struggle and neighbors said that while his voice was loud, her voice sounded muffled.

Judge Patrick F. Dugan agreed ordered Garcia to stand trial on a general charge of murder and abuse of corpse.

Return to top

Click for Huntingdon, Pennsylvania Forecast