OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska judge denied bond Tuesday to an Indiana doctor charged in the killing of four people with ties to an Omaha medical school that fired him from a residency program more than a decade ago.
Dr. Anthony Garcia appeared in the Omaha courtroom wearing a yellow jumpsuit and with his hands and feet shackled. Observers watched the hearing from behind a window in a guarded room at the back of the court.
Garcia faces four counts of first-degree murder and four weapons charges. He is accused of killing Creighton University pathologist Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, in May at their home. Garcia also is accused in the 2008 killings of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter, whose father William worked at the university, and his family's housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman.
Several observers who arrived at the courthouse wearing t-shirts that read "Shirlee Sherman" were told to remove the shirts or turn them inside out before entering the observation room. They declined to speak to reporters, but several audibly gasped or snorted derisively when one of Garcia's lawyers said prosecutors lacked evidence to support the charges.
"It's circumstantial and thinly veiled," Chicago attorney Alison Motta told the court.
Police and prosecutors contend that Garcia was motivated by revenge in the killings. Roger Brumback and William Hunter had been instrumental in firing Garcia from the Creighton pathology program in 2001. Both men subsequently sent letters to state medical licensing boards that prevented Garcia from becoming licensed in Louisiana, Indiana, Texas and California and from finishing other residency programs.
The judge said Tuesday there was enough evidence to hold Garcia, of Terre Haute, Ind., without bail.
An arrest affidavit says investigators noticed similar stab wounds on all four victims, and that parts of a gun found at the Brumbacks' home matched the model of handgun that Garcia bought in Indiana in March.
Another Creighton Pathology doctor, Chhanda Bewtra, said that someone tried to break into her Omaha home — but was apparently thwarted by the alarm — the day the Brumbacks were killed.
"Part of me doesn't want to believe it was him," Bewtra told the Omaha World-Herald for its Tuesday editions. "But the coincidence is very strong."
Nothing was taken from her house, and Bewtra did not immediately call the police, she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. She called police several days later after learning of the Brumbacks' deaths and discussing the break-in with colleagues.
"It was disconcerting," she said. "I was very grateful (we weren't home). It would be very disturbing otherwise."
Motta complained that the Omaha jail where Garcia was being held was hindering their work together and that guards' insistence that they keep Garcia in sight at all times could be a breach of attorney-client privilege.
"Our conversations — the sound echoes and reverberates. We have no access to hand him documents," Motta said.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he would talk to jail staff about those issues, and indicated the suspect was on suicide watch.
"They want to make sure he doesn't harm himself," Kleine said.
Jail director Mark Foxall declined to say if Garcia was on suicide watch, but said the yellow jumpsuit he wore Tuesday showed "he's being held away from the general population."
Garcia was arrested in Illinois last week and extradited to Omaha.
Nebraska prosecutors are weighing whether to seek the death penalty against Garcia. A conviction of first-degree murder in Nebraska brings a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.