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N4T Investigators: Baby battle update, mother is sentenced

BISBEE – Marina Garcia ignored questions from the News 4 Tucson Investigators as she entered the Cochise County Courthouse yesterday. She was about to be sentenced for giving away her newborn baby and lying about it.

The 31 year-old Sierra Vista woman had pleaded guilty to Attempted Scheme to Defraud, a felony. She gave her newborn son to friends in February after telling her husband’s family the baby had died. Her husband at the time, U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Garcia, is stationed in South Korea and thought he was the father until DNA tests showed otherwise. 

you were not honest from the get-go.

Cochise County Judge John Kelliher, Jr.  didn’t allow our camera to show Ms. Garcia’s face to record her voice, because, her attorney said, she’s received death threats on social media. But it was clear she was nervous. She said she accepts full responsibility for her actions and would do it differently if she could do it over again. Judge Kelliher said, "The question is why would you do those things differently? Because you got caught?

Marina Garcia’s lawyer, Public Defender Richard Karwaczka, asked for leniency. "I don’t believe this is an individual that needs to be incarcerated," he said. "She has taken responsibility."

The judge held back tears himself at times, as he lectured Garcia for a half-hour.

"You compounded your lies," Kelliher said. "You made that snowball going down the hill incredibly large. It shocks the conscience because we’re dealing with another human being, a child. But also a father."

The probation department recommended that Garcia serve three and a half years in prison and the county attorney agreed. Judge Kelliher said she did not deserve that much time. He sentenced her to 120 days in the county jail and five years’ probation. With receiving credit for 49 days served, Ms. Garcia will spend 71 days in jail. 

The fact that she had no prior felonies was apparently a factor. 

Lori Zucco, the Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "We’re satisfied with the sentence. I think that the message is if you want to give your baby up for adoption that you should go through the legal process and do it the right way."

The News 4 Tucson Investigators first reported last month that Marina Garcia gave the baby to old friends, Alex Hernandez and his wife, Leslie. They were bringing the three-day-old boy to live with them in Texas when they were stopped for speeding, doing 93 mph on I-10 near Willcox. An alert state trooper thought they looked nervous. They later told investigators everything: That the child was given to them by Marina and she forged the birth certificate saying Alex was the father.

We we found Marina Garcia last month at an apartment in Sierra Vista. Although Steven Garcia is not the father, he had told us he wanted to raise the boy, in part because he is adopted. Ms. Garcia said she didn’t know who the father is. 

Steven and Marina had dated only two months before they got married. They got divorced three weeks ago. Sgt. Garcia told us last month, "I would just ask her why, why she lied about everything. I want to know what was going through her head, to be honest with you."

Judge Kelliher ended the sentencing by telling Ms. Garcia, "My message to you today is you must be honest in your dealings, with yourself and with society. I wish you a better rest of your life."

Today, in another court hearing, Steven Garcia was awarded sole custody of the baby he has named Leo.  After naming Steven the legal father, the judge said, "It is in the best interests of the child at this time to award no parenting time to Marina Garcia." The baby is now living with Steven’s parents in Colorado, and he’s requested a transfer to an army base nearby, so he can live with his son. 

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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