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Man gets life without parole in 'ritualistic killing' in downtown L.A. hotel

Man gets life without parole in 'ritualistic killing' in downtown L.A. hotel
Edward Garcia was found guilty in the dismemberment of a man at a skid row hotel in 2010. His wife is also facing trial. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Annie Coty-White's voice broke in the Los Angeles courtroom as she spoke about the night she was robbed of her husband.

She looked over at the man sitting in front of her who had been convicted of murdering Herbert Tracy White in what prosecutors described as a "ritualistic killing" in which his body was carved up.

"It has been like an earthquake, followed by the tremors, then aftershocks as every day during the trial, more and more horrific revelations have surfaced," Coty-White said, reading from a letter that her sister had written that she said summed up her feelings.

Then, speaking for herself, she added: "Thank God I do believe in the afterlife. And I know that his spirit is with me a lot of the time."

As she spoke, Edward Garcia sat silently at the defendant's table, staring down without looking at her.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler sentenced Garcia to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The veteran judge noted the horror of the crime, which the prosecution said involved using a 3 1/2-inch blade to slice a piece of the victim's leg muscle from the bone "like a filet."

"Forty-five years in the business, 32 on the bench, I thought I had seen it all," Fidler said. "I was wrong.... It goes beyond 'you wouldn't believe it if you'd seen it,' and I saw it. I'm still not sure that I believe it."

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The victim's mother, Elizabeth White-Peterson, clasped the hands of her remaining two sons and held them up after the judge announced the sentence.

Earlier this year, jurors found Garcia, 41, guilty of first-degree murder in the November 2010 slaying of White, whose dismembered remains were found in Room 66 of the Continental Hotel.

Police found White's severed arms still bound by duct tape in a backpack in the hotel room, the prosecutor recounted during closing arguments. White's torso, covered in scratches and small punctures, was under the bed.

White, 49, had met Garcia and his wife, Melissa, at a bank in Hollywood days before his death. The former cocaine addict-turned-Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor gave the Garcias his phone number and said to call him if they wanted help getting sober, Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney said during the trial.

The evening before White's body was found, the couple called and said they needed help. He drove the couple to the hotel near skid row and paid to check them in.

McKinney told jurors that the couple lured White into the room with the intention of robbing, torturing and mutilating him. The couple, he said, killed White as part of a "long-held fantasy" of dismembering a body.

Edward Garcia's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi, painted a different picture for jurors, saying White had brought drugs to the room and was seeking sex from Melissa Garcia.

Jurors found true the special-circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and torture.

Melissa Garcia, 30, is awaiting a separate trial.

White's family told the court on Friday that the way he was killed meant they had not been able to display his body at his funeral so that those who loved him could say goodbye face to face.

"All he ever wanted was to help people, and anybody who knew him knows that," White-Peterson said. "I just wish my son were here, and I'm so sorry he ever laid eyes on these people."

One of the victim's brothers, Anthony DeMarco White, sobbed as he spoke about the anger he felt toward Edward Garcia.

"Mr. Garcia, I hope you rot like hell where you're going," he said. "He deserves death. I don't know why he's not getting death."

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