Hearing for foster parents of dead girl, 3, pushed to Monday
BY RUTH BROWN
The family of 3-year-old Serenity Julia Gandara wondered if her foster parents -- her alleged killers -- would ever see trial, but the couple finally made their first Kern County court appearance Tuesday.
Alberto Garcia, 31, and Carla Garcia, 30, are accused of killing Serenity and abandoning her 4-year-old brother Isaiah Gandara in their southwest Bakersfield home in July 2010.
The Garcias then fled to Mexico, taking their two biological children and Carla Garcia's son from a previous relationship with them. The couple was apprehended in February 2012, and after exhausting extradition appeals, booked Friday into the Kern County Jail.
"I didn't think they would find (them)," Serenity's paternal grandmother Renee Maese said outside of court Tuesday. "I thank God every day they found them."
During the brief appearance, the Garcias wore jail uniforms and were handcuffed.
Kern County Superior Court Judge H.A. "Skip" Staley agreed to postpone their court appearance until 3 p.m. Monday.
Public defenders will be appointed until they hire a private attorney, which both defendants said they plan to do.
They are being held without bail. Alberto Garcia is charged on suspicion of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of willful cruelty to a child.
Carla Garcia is charged on suspicion of one count of first-degree murder and three counts of willful cruelty to a child.
Isaiah and Serenity are the biological children of Alberto Garcia's sister. Isaiah has since been adopted by another family member.
Serenity died from massive blunt force trauma to her abdomen, according to court records. Investigators said Serenity had a severe skull fracture and signs of trauma sustained over a prolonged period of time. Isaiah also had injuries consistant with prolonged physical abuse.
"There was no reason for her life to be taken," said Maese. "We can't see her grow up now."