Two weeks after the dismembered remains of Herbert Tracy White were found in Room 66 of the Continental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Edward Garcia calmly told police investigators he could not remember the killing, but knew what he had done.
"I wish that it wasn't me in that room — but it was. I did that," Garcia said in a taped interview played for jurors Thursday.
As his recorded voice boomed through the courtroom, a photograph of a smiling White was beamed from a projector onto the wall. Garcia removed his black-rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes and stared straight ahead.
Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney told jurors that Garcia and his wife, Melissa Hope Garcia, killed White as part of a "long-held fantasy" of dismembering a body. The prosecutor said Edward Garcia carved up White's body with a 31/2-inch blade and dissected and sliced a piece of leg muscle from the bone in what he called a "ritualistic killing."
During his closing arguments, McKinney recounted the gruesome scene at the hotel. Police found White's severed arms still bound by duct tape, and a backpack stuffed full of flesh. Under the blood-soaked bed was White's torso, riddled with scratches and small punctures.
"It was a bloodbath," McKinney said. "They took this man apart."
Days before his death in November 2010, White met the married couple at a Chase bank in Hollywood. White, a former cocaine addict turned Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, gave them his phone number and suggested they call him if they ever wanted help getting sober, McKinney said.
On the evening before White's body was found, the couple called him and said they needed help. He drove them to skid row and paid to check them in to the Continental Hotel.
McKinney told jurors that the Garcias lured in White with the intention of robbing, torturing and mutilating him.
"It sounds crazy, until you know that it actually happened," McKinney said. "They thought about this long before they met Mr. White."
McKinney urged the jury to convict Edward Garcia of first-degree murder, arguing that the evidence showed the couple planned the killing and torture and carried them out while robbing him.
Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi did not dispute that Edward Garcia was responsible for White's death. But she said McKinney was pushing a "fantastical theory" because he lacked the evidence to prove premeditation, torture or robbery.
She described a far different series of events for jurors.
When White encountered the couple again after meeting at the bank, she said, White told them that he could not stop thinking about them. He then turned to Melissa Garcia and added, "I couldn't stop thinking of you."
He told a hotel security guard that Melissa Garcia was his girlfriend and wrote a false name in a registry at the front desk, the attorney said. Sexual lubricant — the same type found at White's house — was in the hotel room, Takasugi said.
At the time of the killing, Edward Garcia had used two baggies of meth that White reportedly gave him at the hotel. Edwards was a heroin and crack cocaine addict, but had never used meth before, she said.
Takasugi said that the dismemberment occurred after White died or near the time of death and that there was no evidence that the couple robbed White.
Closing arguments are expected to conclude Friday.