Trial began Tuesday for a Nevada man accused of strangling an 81-year-old man to death in the bedroom of a Newport Beach home in what is suspected to be a financially-motivated killing.
Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky, during opening statements in the special circumstances murder trial of Anthony Thomas Garcia, described an elaborate web of familial links between Garcia and Abelardo Lopez Estacion, as well as the financial issues that the prosecutor alleged led Garcia to kill Estacion in April 2015.
Garcia’s attorney, Alisha Montoro, is scheduled to respond with her own opening statements in the trial on Wednesday morning.
Estacion had long lived with Dortha Lamb, his partner of 25 years whom he had only recently married, the prosecutor told jurors. Along with the Newport Beach home they lived at, Lamb also owned rental properties, including a home in San Clemente and an apartment complex in Costa Mesa, and shared bank accounts with Estacion.
Garcia, 61, for many years had been romantically involved with Lamb’s granddaughter. Garcia, as well as Lamb’s daughter, didn’t like Estacion, believing he was abusive to Lamb and was siphoning money from her, the prosecutor told jurors.
In 2014, Estacion and Lamb amended Lamb’s trust, leaving the Newport Beach home to go to Lamb’s daughter if she died before Estacion and the rental properties to Estacion or his children. As a result, the prosecutor told jurors, if Lamb died before Estacion, her family would get only the Newport Beach home, not the rental properties or rent money.
In March 2015, the prosecutor alleged that Lamb’s daughter and Garcia “stole” Lamb, who had dementia, from the Newport Beach home, took her before a judge to get a temporary conservatorship, then took Lamb to a doctor who determined that she also had terminal cancer.
“So time is of the essence,” Bokosky said.
Lamb’s daughter and Garcia brought her to stay with a family member in Santa Barbara, the prosecutor said, kicking off a legal battle with Estacion, who wanted her brought back to the Newport Beach home.
A judge delayed a ruling on a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Estacion from contacting Lamb and kicked him out of the Newport Beach home. Hours later, the prosecutor said, someone entered the home, cut off power to the residence for 30 minutes, then smothered, strangled and struck Estacion.
“He was an old man who was sleeping in bed,” Bokosky said. “He fought back, and he was hit, subdued and strangled to death.”
A caretaker on the morning of April 11, 2015 discovered Estacion lying in a strange position on his bed with blood coming out of his nose and mouth.
An autopsy later turned up what was believed to be bruising on Estacion’s left eye and the inside of his mouth and the top of his left hand, a small cut on his upper lip and “small red pinpoints” in both eyes that could be the result of a lack of oxygen.
Bokosky said that prior to Estacion’s death, Garcia had made threatening comments about him to several people, including tenants at the rental properties Lamb owned.
“He hated Mr. Estacion,” the prosecutor said of Garcia. “Hated him. He told people before the murder that he wanted to kill Mr. Estacion.”
Bokosky also alleged that the night of the killing Garcia left his cell phone with one of his daughters in Nevada when he drove to Newport Beach and back, having her carry out a fake text conversation and set up a fake meeting between the two of them to provide an alibi.
More than a year after the killing, Garcia was arrested in Nevada and charged with killing Estacion for financial gain.
A native of Cavite City in the Phillipines who studied accounting at Pepperdine, Estacion worked for Rheem Manufacturing Co. and Boyle Engineering and Pacific Light Sales. After his retirement he helped students at his alma mater, Cavite National High School, co-sponsoring more than 50 scholarships.