Once her sister had killed her prosecutor husband, attorney Nicole Garza was convinced that good acting and the bond between siblings would deflect suspicion, a note allegedly outlining the murder scheme reveals.
"Do it and forget it," Nicole Garza urged her 34-year-old sister, Lynette LaFontaine-Trujillo, in the letter.
The police investigation would focus on people Jose Garza had prosecuted as a deputy city attorney, according to the note. A copy of the single page, typewritten note was included among court documents made public Friday. "We act on a daily basis in our jobs and we're good at it," police allege Garza wrote to LaFontaine-Trujillo. "We have acted for years with men and we are good at it . . . We trust each other implicitly. We are smart--never say anything--ever--ever--ever."
But the plot went astray when the intended victim, 50-year-old Jose Garza, mistook his disguised sister-in-law for a burglar and shot her Sept. 25 during an exchange of gunfire inside the garage of his Sylmar home. A mother of four boys, LaFontaine-Trujillo died of her wounds earlier this week. Garza was unharmed.
It was a ruinous end to a plan the sisters hoped would lead to a better life, court records show. Police allege the attempted murder was motivated, in part, by financial gain.
In her note, Nicole Garza wrote that with her money worries over, she would be able to "get out of the rat race," and spend more time with her three children. For the last year, she worked for a Woodland Hills law firm.
As for LaFontaine-Trujillo, a waitress working two jobs to make ends meet, killing Jose Garza offered "1 1/2 minutes of terror and a 360-degree turnaround in your life."
Nicole Garza allegedly promised: "I can get you out of debt . . . get you off the drugs, get you on Prozac, get you into a profession you enjoy and which utilizes your numerous talents, get you in a mental position to spend quality . . . time with your children, help you get into a residence, etc.
"What a tremendous domino effect your action will have to better the lives of so many people," the note said. "You will be saving my life and the lives of my children."
Nicole Garza, 32, remains in custody on $1-million bail, charged with the murder of her sister, as well as the attempted murder of her husband and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.
Her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Marie Girolamo, could not be reached Friday. But she has said in the past that police have not yet linked Nicole Garza to the note, which is unsigned. Jose Garza remains supportive of his wife, visits her often in jail and does not believe she is responsible for plotting his demise, Girolamo has said.
The court documents used to obtain search warrants for the Garza home, LaFontaine-Trujillo's Sherman Oaks apartment and Nicole Garza's law office in Woodland Hills disclosed new details of what police allege was the sisters' bizarre and ill-fated scheme, and offer a chilling glimpse into the thoughts of a woman allegedly plotting murder.
"You have the mental stamina to do it and forget it," Nicole Garza allegedly wrote, using capital letters to further encourage her older sibling, "You are stronger than you give yourself credit for . . . You will be greatly improving the quality of your life and the lives of your children."
The note appears to reveal that Nicole Garza considered her husband controlling and abusive, and that she was not permitted to see her relatives as often as she would have liked. She also claims that the couple's 4-year-old daughter "wants him dead."
Among the litany of complaints to LaFontaine-Trujillo about Jose Garza listed in the note:
"Daily sexual abuse of your sister
mental and physical abuse of kids . . .
mental abuse of your sister . . .
teaching children to be gun mongers--too wrapped up in guns, etc.
teaching children to be inconsiderate and rude (formative years)"
According to the court documents, La Fontaine-Trujillo wore a hooded sweatshirt, baseball cap, amber-tinted shooting glasses, a black wig and black evening gloves when she opened fire on Jose Garza with a .38-caliber revolver taken from his gun collection. She fired four shots into the garage door, but missed Garza.
Garza shot her once in the abdomen with a .45-caliber handgun he carried as a precaution because he earlier had heard the family's three dogs barking.
After she was shot, LaFontaine-Trujillo became wedged between a water heater and a freezer, where Nicole Garza had sent her husband to fetch ice cream. As paramedics extricated the wounded woman, the revolver clattered to the floor.
Police found eyeglasses, five rounds of .38-caliber ammunition, and a plastic bag in a fanny pack LaFontaine-Trujillo had been wearing, and a plastic key holder around her wrist. One key fit the garage door lock; another opened her Ford Explorer, parked near the house.
Inside the Explorer, police found LaFontaine-Trujillo's driver's license, and the note, shredded and damp, tucked inside a plastic bag on the floor of the passenger side. They also found another list, which they believe was written by LaFontaine-Trujillo.
It said: "Wig? to buy ammo. On trail? Dry run?"
An autopsy conducted Thursday found that LaFontaine-Trujillo died of a gunshot wound to her lower torso. Her funeral is scheduled for today.