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Jury finds man guilty in 'ritualistic killing' in downtown L.A. hotel

For weeks, Elizabeth Peterson sat quietly in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, listening to every detail of her son’s gruesome murder — trying to push the horror from her mind and silently dreaming of the time when her Tracy was still alive.

But when she heard the word “guilty” Tuesday, she finally let out a loud cry: “Yes, yes! Thank you!”

Jurors had found Edward Garcia, 41, guilty of first-degree murder in the November 2010 killing of Herbert Tracy White, whose remains were found in a Los Angeles hotel room.

Prosecutors accused Garcia and his wife, Melissa, of killing 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 in a “ritualistic killing.”

As the verdict was read, Edward Garcia shook his head back and forth while rubbing the band on his left ring finger.

In the hallway, Peterson and her two other sons, David and Anthony White, thanked jurors and Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney and cried in their arms.

“We finally got some justice for my son,” Peterson said. “I’m happy that this day has come and gone.”

During closing arguments last week, McKinney recounted the grisly scene at the Continental Hotel near skid row. Police found White's severed arms still bound by duct tape. Under the blood-soaked bed was White's torso, riddled with scratches and punctures.

“It was a bloodbath,” McKinney said. “They took this man apart.”

Days before his death in November 2010, White met the couple at a bank in Hollywood. White, a former cocaine addict turned Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, gave the Garcias his phone number and said to 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 the hotel and paid to check them in.

McKinney told jurors that the Garcias lured White into the room with the intention of robbing, torturing and mutilating him.

Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi did not dispute that Edward Garcia was responsible for White's death. But she said McKinney pushed a “fantastical theory” because he lacked the evidence to prove premeditation, torture or robbery.

She described a far different series of events for jurors, saying that White had brought drugs to the room and was seeking sex from Melissa Garcia.

Jurors also found true the special-circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and torture. Garcia faces a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. His sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 14.

Peterson said the defense’s narrative angered her and that its lies sullied her son’s memory. White was a dedicated husband, Peterson said, who had overcome the evils in his past and flourished in his sobriety.

“They tried to malign my son’s character,” she said.

Anthony White recounted how his younger brother was fiercely devoted to his family, generous and always willing to care for anyone in need.

“He wanted to help people,” he said. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be here with us today.”

Melissa Garcia, 30, is awaiting a separate trial.

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