A forensic neuropsychiatrist provided testimony to make a case for a sudden passion defense in the murder trial of Pete Garcia.
Pete Garcia was on trial for the February 2016 murder of Orestes “West” Garza. Garza, 51, was leaving church with his girlfriend, Judy Garcia, when Pete Garcia walked up to him and shot him three times in the back and once in the genitals. Garza was taken to the hospital where he later died.
Judy and Pete Garcia had been married for 32 years prior to their divorce in October 2015. Judy told police that Pete had been threatening her and Garza since her divorce and that Pete had assaulted Garza on a prior occasion. Investigators discovered that Garcia had learned that Garza and his wife had been having an affair behind his back for 25 years.
Pete Garcia confessed the murder to his friend and his son, who then notified the police. Garcia turned himself in to the Levelland police.
Prosecutors argued that Garcia killed Garza in an act of premeditated murder. Garcia’s defense was that the murder was a crime of sudden passion. If a jury found that the crime was one of sudden passion, it would reduce the punishment range from five years to life in prison to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors called Nicholas Weaver, the general manager of the Cabela’s where Garcia purchased a handgun about two weeks prior to the shooting. Weaver testified that Garcia applied for a gun on January 15, 2016 and returned five days later to pick up a Browning .380 semi-automatic pistol. Garcia passed a FBI background check, which cleared him to purchase the weapon.
Defense presented Dr. John Fabian, a forensic neuropsychiatrist, to make the case for sudden passion. Dr. Fabian described Garcia as a low-functioning person with below-average intelligence. He testified that Garcia showed extreme impairment with abstract reasoning and making problem-solving strategies.
Dr. Fabian diagnosed Garcia with obsessive compulsive behavior, anxiety, and depression. He testified that Garcia displayed dependent personality disorder and Garcia’s Catholic religious beliefs prevented his acceptance of the end of his marriage.
Dr. Fabian testified that “She was, at least in his perception, the center of his life…His whole life seemed to center around Judy.” Dr. Fabian said that Garcia’s mental impairment combined with the stress of his divorce and learning about his wife’s affair with Garza led to his loss of control on the day of the shooting. “This was building to a snap … a crescendo of a blowup. … So I think there was a train wreck going to happen, potentially suicide or homicide.”
Garcia testified that he did not go to the church with the intent of killing Garza. Garcia said that he just wanted to see his ex-wife, but when he saw her with Garza, “It was just like something came over me and I just lost it.”
A Lubbock County jury found Garcia guilty of Garza’s murder and did not find a sudden passion defense. Garcia was sentenced to 35 years in prison and will have to serve at least half of that sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.