Trial begins Monday for a man accused of breaking into the Newport Beach home of an 81-year-old man and asphyxiating him in his bed.
The death of Abelardo “Abby” Estacion in April 2015, allegedly at the hands of Anthony Thomas Garcia, now 61, has complex familial and financial layers, according to court documents.
Estacion had a partner of roughly 25 years who became his wife weeks before his death. The wife, Dortha Lamb, owned property in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, San Clemente and San Bernardino County and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank.
She also had dementia and terminal cancer, and her daughter had just secured a court-granted conservatorship around the time of the marriage.
Relations between Estacion and his in-laws were tense, investigators said. His wife’s family had accused him of theft and abuse against her for years. The day before his death, Lamb’s relatives tried unsuccessfully to get a protective order to remove him from the Newport Heights home he shared with her.
The daughter who secured the conservatorship had been her mother’s sole heir, but Estacion and his wife amended Lamb’s trust, diminishing the daughter’s inheritance, investigators said. Lamb died in June 2015 at age 94.
Early in the morning of April 11, 2015, investigators said, someone entered Estacion and Lamb’s 16th Street home — she was staying out of town with her family, per the conservatorship — and killed Estacion in his bedroom while his live-in caretaker slept upstairs. The caretaker went downstairs in the morning to make breakfast and discovered Estacion’s body in bed, with a bloodied face.
An autopsy revealed pinpoints of blood in his eyes and pooling blood and a broken bone in his neck. His nose, lips and left eye were swollen and he had what appeared to be defensive wounds on his arms, according to police.
Lamb’s granddaughter had a longtime partner, Garcia. They lived in Garcia’s hometown, Carson City, Nev., near Reno.
Garcia was arrested in July 2016 in Carson City and extradited to Orange County.
He has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder.
Newport Beach police Sgt. Justin Morouse, who testified at Garcia’s preliminary hearing in 2017, said acquaintances of Garcia told Morouse that Garcia complained about Estacion, spoke about his alleged mistreatment of his wife and said he wanted to kill him.
Estacion, who ran an educational foundation to benefit youths in his native Philippines, immigrated to the United States in 1953, served in the Navy and used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn an accounting degree at Pepperdine University, he told BakitWhy, a website with content related to Filipino American lifestyles, in 2012.
At the preliminary hearing, Garcia’s adult daughter testified that her father gave her his cellphone before Estacion’s death and she sent text messages to it from her phone, then responded, posing as her father. Prosecutors, who allege she was establishing a false alibi for Garcia, gave her immunity in exchange for her testimony.
The trial begins at 9 a.m. Monday with jury selection at Orange County Superior Court’s Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Davis writes for Times Community News.