MONTE VISTA — At the end of a preliminary hearing that lasted most of the day, Judge Martin Gonzales ruled on Friday that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to charge Monte Vista resident Jimmy Garcia in the 2014 death of Jacque Jones, effectively putting the case on the road to trial.
Garcia, 43, is facing three felony counts related to the alleged crime, including Murder in the First degree – indicating the murder was done with premeditation, Murder in the Second degree – indicating he knowingly caused her death, and Tampering with Evidence for the purpose of impeding further potential investigations by the authorities.
Much of the prosecution’s case, presented by Deputy District Attorney Alex Raines, relied upon the investigative work and testimony of Monte Vista Police Department (MVPD) Sergeant Michael Martinez.
In the early morning of March 26, 2014, officers with the Monte Vista Police Department (MVPD) were dispatched to Garcia’s residence in the 400 block of Madison where they found Jacque Jones, 23, unconscious and unresponsive. After efforts to resuscitate her failed, she was pronounced deceased at the scene. At that time, Garcia claimed that when he found Jones, she had committed suicide by hanging herself with an electrical cord looped over the closet door.
In a series of three different, subsequent determinations by three different coroners from two counties, the cause of Jones’ death was first ruled as “unknown”, then changed to “suicide” then back to “unknown.”
Officers who were originally on the scene continued to have suspicions about how Jones died and, for a period of time, continued an intensive investigation. But, as years passed, the case eventually grew “cold”.
In 2018, Martinez, who had recently been hired by MVPD, was directed by then-Monte Vista Police Chief John Rosecrans to reopen the case.
Over the next two years, Officer Martinez conducted a painstaking review of evidence that had been collected by MVPD and CBI, including numerous files; police reports; medical reports; transcripts and DVDs of interviews conducted with the defendant, his associates, witnesses and other sources of information; footage from a camera at Garcia’s residence; text messages between Garcia, Jones and others; Jones’ journals and treatment notes from a counsellor when Jones was in rehab receiving treatment. As part of his investigation, Martinez also re-interviewed MVPD officers originally on the scene or who investigated the case as well as sources of information who had previously been questioned after Jones’ death.
“I was putting together pieces of a puzzle,” Martinez said under cross-examination by defense counsel in court.
Although DDA Alex Raines has extensive experience as defense counsel in 12th Judicial court, this is presumed to be his first appearance in court as a prosecutor for the state under the current DA administration, questioning a witness in a high profile, major felony case.
Sergeant Martinez’s extensive and thorough familiarity with the case made the experience flow smoothly with Raines just walking him through the findings of his own investigation.
Guided by Raines’ questioning, several key factors emerged in the case that the prosecution pointed to as evidence that Jones’ death was caused by someone other than herself.
Martinez testified that, according to reports he reviewed, the electrical cord allegedly used by Jones to hang herself, did not show signs of damage consistent with being used to hang someone who weighed approximately 150 pounds, as Jones did. Upon being questioned several years later, Garcia’s associate who had provided him with an alibi the night of Jones death gave information contradictory to what he had told authorities before. The fluids present on Jones’ clothing that were released upon her death were not consistent with hanging herself. The security camera that was installed at Garcia’s residence that showed who was coming and going from the house was “disconnected” in the hours immediately preceding Jones’ death. When Garcia was questioned by MVPD investigators, he was repeatedly unable to recreate how the electrical cord was positioned when he discovered Jones’ body.
On cross examination, defense counsel, aided by defense attorney David Lipka, focused on Sergeant Martinez’s testimony that relied, to a large degree, on investigations conducted by others instead of himself. Counsel also brought out factors contained in Martinez’s investigative report that were not revealed by the prosecution but suggested Jacque Jones was struggling with depression and substance abuse that would give credence to her committing suicide.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Gonzales reminded the court that a preliminary hearing was not a trial but was, instead, a gateway to screening out cases that did not meet the criteria to go to trial and simply had to present sufficient evidence to convince the court that a trial is needed.
With that said, Gonzales ruled for the prosecution, citing much of the same specifics that was contained in Martinez’s testimony.
The next step in the judicial process is presumably the hearing where Jimmy Garcia will enter a plea in the case. That is currently scheduled for January 24, 2022.
It is not known if David Lipka, who is currently counsel in the Baroz case and had not appeared in this case prior to today, will continue to act as defense co-counsel for Garcia.