Knife wounds linked killings, but gun clip led to Anthony Garcia in Creighton slayings -
Published Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 6:00 am / Updated at 7:01 am
Knife wounds linked killings, but gun clip led to Anthony Garcia in Creighton slayings

Update, 5:50 p.m.: Anthony J. Garcia arrived in Omaha and was booked at the Douglas County Jail at 5:32 p.m. Thursday.

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Video: Dr. Anthony J. Garcia appears in court

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UPDATE - 5 p.m.:

Dr. Anthony Garcia was removed from the Jackson County, Ill., jail late this afternoon, presumably to be extradited to Omaha on four counts of first-degree murder.

Omaha police would not confirm that their detectives were bringing Garcia, 40, back to the city. The jail in Murphysboro, Ill., is about an eight-hour drive to Omaha.

Once he arrives, he'll be booked into the Douglas County Corrections Center and will likely have his first court appearance Monday or Tuesday, County Attorney Don Kleine said.

An Indiana state trooper told The World-Herald today that about five Omaha detectives have been in Terre Haute, Ind., investigating the Garcia case since last week.

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It was the killer's grisly signature, the link between four killings five years apart.

A knife to the neck of each victim: Roger and Mary Brumback in 2013 and Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in 2008. Near the carotid artery.

But it was a different weapon that led Omaha police to the doctor now charged in the killings, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The World-Herald.

Not only was Dr. Roger Brumback stabbed, he was the sole victim who also was shot, multiple times.

In the course of that shooting, the killer's gun fell apart — the clip coming to rest near the threshold of the Brumbacks' home.

An Omaha police gun expert identified the broken clip as a component of a Smith & Wesson SD9 handgun. Detectives later checked a gun store in Terre Haute, Ind., and found that a customer had purchased that model of handgun on March 8, 2013.

That customer: Dr. Anthony J. Garcia.

The Omaha police affidavit offers the first explanation of how the department's two-month-old task force connected Garcia to the double homicides. And with its description of trademark neck wounds, the document may give an indication of one reason why Chief Todd Schmaderer alleged that the 40-year-old doctor has the “elements of a serial killer.”

Garcia's attorneys, Robert and Alison Motta of Chicago, called Schmaderer's characterization of Garcia as a serial killer “patently absurd.”

“They don't know anything about him,” Alison Motta said.

Omaha police disagree. In a four-page affidavit, they described a doctor who, they say, had a grudge over a firing that hounded him every time he applied for medical licenses or jobs across the country. Brumback and Dr. William Hunter, Thomas' father, had fired Garcia in 2001 for unprofessional conduct toward a fellow resident.

While much has been made of that purported motive, little had been known about how Omaha police zeroed in on Garcia.

In the early morning hours Monday, members of the task force, along with Illinois state police, followed Garcia from a hotel near his home in Terre Haute. He traveled south for a couple of hours before authorities arrested him about 6 a.m. near Jonesboro, Ill.

Reached Wednesday, Schmaderer said he couldn't reveal much about how detectives locked on Garcia.

“I can tell you this — there was no big tip that came to us,” the chief said. “It was just sheer police work. We pored through file after file.”

According to the affidavit of Omaha Police Detectives Derek Mois and Chris Gordon:

After the Brumback killings, detectives combed through files of “residents and faculty in the Creighton University Department of Pathology.'' Garcia stood out after detectives discovered that he was fired by both Brumback and Hunter in 2001.

On June 26, 2001, Brumback and Hunter dismissed Garcia for “unprofessional conduct toward a fellow resident and their family.” Garcia reportedly had hounded the resident and his wife while the resident was preparing for a critical test.

Years passed. Garcia bounced across the country — unable to hold down jobs and at one point declaring bankruptcy. He applied for numerous jobs, medical licenses and residencies — often omitting his firing from Creighton and his dismissal from another hospital residency.

His prospective employers checked with Creighton.

“Dr. Hunter or Dr. Brumback responded to each request by documenting that Dr. Garcia … was terminated in June of 2001,” the affidavit says.

On Feb. 26, 2008, Garcia was informed that he would be rejected for a medical license in Louisiana because he had not mentioned the Creighton firing in his application. A Louisiana State University psychiatry program director then fired him from his residency “for falsifying his application to LSU regarding his attendance at programs at Creighton.”

“Garcia was terminated on that date — a result of information provided to LSU specifically by Dr. Hunter,” the affidavit says.

Two weeks later, on March 13, 2008, someone entered the home of William Hunter and stabbed 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman, the family's 57-year-old house cleaner.

Afterward, neighbors described seeing an olive-skinned man in the area of the Hunters' home, 303 N. 54th St. The neighbors said he was driving a gray or silver Honda CRV or similar sport utility vehicle.

Garcia is “olive-skinned,” police noted in this week's affidavit. And police said Garcia had a silver Honda CRV registered to his Shreveport, La., apartment in 2008. That SUV is currently registered to Garcia's father in Walnut, Calif.

Fast forward four years.

On Sept. 19, 2012, in response to a request, Brumback sent a letter to an Indiana medical licensing board detailing Garcia's rotations during his short stay at Creighton. Brumback's account noted that “Garcia was involved in an incident that the program felt was unprofessional behavior toward a fellow resident.”

On Mother's Day of this year — May 12 — Brumback and his wife were preparing for the doctor's impending retirement and their move to West Virginia. Daughter Audrey Brumback, a doctor in San Francisco, had just spoken to them via the FaceTime application on the Brumbacks' iPad.

It was the last time the Brumbacks would be seen alive.

Omaha police said their bodies bore similarities to the 2008 slayings at Hunter's home.

“It was observed that there were significant similarities between the wound patterns on both (sets of) victims,” the affidavit said. “(All four) had similar multiple stab wounds to the right side of their necks. It was also determined that knives from (each) residence were used in the attacks on (each victim) and also left at the scene.”

The difference was what else was found at the Brumback home, 11421 Shirley St. Investigators found one spent 9 mm casing — and a gun clip, or magazine, with nine bullets.

They obtained Garcia's phone records and found that he had made a call to Gander Mountain, a hunting and camping store in Terre Haute. A subsequent search warrant showed him purchasing a gun there on March 8. Police are searching for the weapon.

“This handgun is consistent with the broken pieces and magazine found at the scene of the Brumback homicides,” the affidavit said.

After tracing the gun purchase, Omaha police tracked Garcia's cellphone and credit card records.

His credit card statement showed him making a $22.59 purchase May 12 at the Casey's General Store on the eastern edge of Council Bluffs, just off Interstate 80. Outside surveillance cameras show a man driving a black Mercedes SUV, consistent with “the same year and model … registered to” Garcia.

An inside surveillance camera further shows a man who looks like Garcia showing his identification as he apparently buys alcohol at the store.

The time: 12:38 p.m.

Nearly an hour later, the Brumbacks finish their FaceTime conversation with Audrey Brumback.

At 2:26 p.m., Garcia's credit card is charged $7.69 at the Wingstop restaurant at 71st and Pacific Streets.

At 5:18 p.m., cellphone records show, a call is placed to Garcia's cellphone as he's driving near Atlantic, Iowa, an hour east of Omaha.

At 6:58 p.m., Garcia checks into a Motel 6 in West Des Moines.

Two days later, on May 14, a mover arrives at the Brumbacks' home.

The door is ajar. A gun clip is near the threshold. And the couple are dead, dressed in the same clothes their daughter saw them in on Mother's Day.

World-Herald staff writer Rick Ruggles contributed to this report.

Read more on the Garcia case and the Creighton University slayings:

» Interactive timeline: Creighton murders
» Documents shed light on Garcia's dismissal at Creighton
» Doctor will be returned to Nebraska to face four murder charges
» Kleine: Prosecutors weighing whether to seek death penalty in Garcia case

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Contact the writer: Todd Cooper    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

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