A spurned lover who strangled and drowned his longtime girlfriend, then buried her body not once but twice in the Mojave Desert, was found guilty of first-degree murder by an Orange County jury Tuesday.
Gerald Lee Bishop Jr., 24, of Westminster faces 25 years to life in prison when he returns to court May 12 for sentencing before Superior Court Judge Jean M. Rheinheimer in Santa Ana.
“This doesn’t bring my daughter back, but it’s nice to know that there’s justice here and that he’ll be punished for taking away my little girl,” said Robert Garcia, father of the victim, Marina Garcia, 23, of Huntington Beach.
The jury, finding that Bishop had planned to kill Garcia, rejected the defense argument that he should be convicted of manslaughter because he acted only in a fit of passion after Garcia sought to break off their tumultuous, 5-year relationship.
The jury was most swayed by the testimony of an old girlfriend of Bishop, who said he had mentioned the idea of killing Garcia to her beforehand, indicating that he had plotted the murder in advance, according to foreman Neale Bailey of Huntington Beach.
Stunned by the jury’s first-degree murder verdict, Bishop’s mother--Bonnie Bishop of Westminster--said: “I’m shaking so bad I can’t talk. He’s not guilty, my son. I know it was an accident.”
Strangled and Drowned
Bishop strangled Garcia and drowned her in the bathtub of her Huntington Beach home June 3, 1988.
After cleaning up the home, he took her body and buried it in the desert near Victorville. He returned later with his brother to dig a deeper hole, fearing that in the first grave the body might be vulnerable to coyotes or exposed to passers-by, Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard F. Toohey said.
Bishop’s attorney, David C. Biggs, sought unsuccessfully to show that his client killed Garcia in a rage sparked by her unwilling ness to see him and pointed in part to his slow mental development as one explanation for the crime.
Bishop did not take the stand in his own defense.
Even after the jury returned the harshest verdict that it could render, Biggs said, Bishop did not fully understand the meaning of the decision.
“What happened?” Bishop asked afterward, according to Biggs.
Bishop’s family described the relationship between the two as often volatile on both sides and said it seemed destined to explode at any moment. The victim used to taunt Bishop about limited intelligence by calling him “stupid” and “idiot,” Gerald Lee Bishop Sr. said.
But Garcia’s father, speaking out for the first time about the case after the verdict “because she can’t protect herself anymore,” disputed that portrayal and placed the blame squarely on Bishop’s shoulders.
‘If He Couldn’t Have Her ...’
Once Bishop realized that Garcia wanted to see other people, his attitude was that “if he couldn’t have her, no one would,” Robert Garcia said.
The victim, who had started a new job as a medical receptionist the week before her murder, was his only child.
Applauding the jury’s verdict, he said: “I don’t think he (Bishop) deserves to be out in public, walking the streets. If he did it once, he could do it again.
“I have no hatred for this young man. All I’ve ever wanted is the truth--about what happened to Marina. I’ll never know why it happened.”