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The attorneys for a doctor accused of four revenge killings in Omaha said Tuesday that evidence against their client is circumstantial and lacks substance.
“The evidence is not great ... and thinly veiled,” said attorney Alison Motta of Chicago, who along with her husband, Bob Motta, is representing Dr. Anthony Garcia in Douglas County.
Garcia was formally charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the March 13, 2008, killings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57, as well as the slayings in May of this year of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary.
Thomas Hunter was the son of Creighton University pathologist Dr. William Hunter; Sherman was the Hunter family's house cleaner.
Both were stabbed at the Hunters' Dundee home. The case had gone cold until this spring.
On May 14, Dr. Roger Brumback, also a Creighton pathologist, and his wife, Mary, were found slain in their west Omaha home.
The couple, both 65, were stabbed. Roger Brumback also was shot multiple times. Police say they were killed two days earlier, on Mother's Day.
Douglas County Judge Lawrence Barrett ordered Garcia held without bail because of the nature of the crimes.
Garcia, quiet during Tuesday's hearing, was shackled and wearing a yellow jumpsuit rather than the typical orange inmate attire. That indicates Garcia is in protective custody, separate from the jail's general population.
In both the 2008 and 2013 slayings, the knives used in the slayings were from the family's own homes, according to a police affidavit. Authorities think the gun used belonged to Garcia, but it hasn't been found.
A narrative that has emerged from court filings, police affidavits and other documents points to Garcia, a former pathology resident, accused of being driven to carry out revenge against two faculty members who had dismissed him from Creighton.
Garcia joined the residency program at Creighton's department of pathology in 2000. A year later, faculty members Hunter and Brumback fired him for erratic behavior and unprofessional treatment of a fellow resident. Garcia appealed, but the termination was upheld.
After leaving Creighton, Garcia, a Walnut, Calif., native, was denied medical licenses in at least a handful of other states. The only state that granted him a license to practice medicine was Illinois, in 2003. On Monday, he surrendered that license.
In 2005, while unemployed and living with his parents in California, he declared bankruptcy, citing $81,000 in medical expenses as the majority of his debt.
Omaha police and the FBI are looking into whether Garcia could be tied to additional killings. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has said Garcia has characteristics of a serial killer.
The Mottas have said their client denies the charges and have called it “patently absurd” to label Garcia a serial killer.
Surveillance video puts Garcia in the Omaha area the day the Brumbacks were killed; he also owned a sport utility vehicle that matches the description of an SUV outside the Hunter home the day of those slayings.
Garcia's attorneys maintain that's not enough for a conviction.
“We don't have him in any house. We have him in the City of Omaha, essentially, and owning a similar type weapon, and that's about all there is,” Bob Motta said Tuesday.
Barrett, the judge, granted a motion by the defense to provide them with more suitable surroundings for visits with Garcia.
Alison Motta said the room provided was too small. The defense attorneys were separated from Garcia by a glass partition making it difficult to be understood and impossible to pass documents pertaining to the case.
Barrett and County Attorney Don Kleine said they would make arrangements for more convenient visits with Garcia to allow him to more fully participate in his defense.
“The manner in which we were able to visit was not consistent with attorney-client privilege,” Alison Motta said. “We now expect that we'll now be able to prepare a defense.”