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VICTORVILLE • A woman whose ex-boyfriend murdered their infant son and then killed himself had sought a restraining order from two San Bernardino County judges only days before the murder-suicide, according to court records (click here to view records) obtained by the Daily Press.
Katie Tagle petitioned two San Bernardino County court judges for a restraining order only days before her former boyfriend,Stephen Garcia, killed himself and their 9-month-old son, Wyatt. Both requests were denied — in spite of Tagle telling a local judge that Garcia had threatened to kill their son.
“My suspicion is you’re lying,” Judge Robert Lemkau said, according to transcripts from a Jan. 21 hearing in Victorville court, “but I’m keeping the custody orders in full force and effect.”
Wyatt was then turned over to Garcia that day. Both Garcia and the child were found dead 10 days later on a Twin Peaks dirt road, after Garcia took Wyatt during a court-ordered visitation.
“Having that restraining order really could’ve helped this situation and possibly may have swayed a judge to grant supervised visitations,” said Anita Gomez, case manager for A Better Way Domestic Violence Shelter.
Lemkau, who couldn’t be reached for comment, denied to make permanent a temporary restraining order signed by another judge — who at first denied Tagle’s original restraining order request.
Family members said when Tagle went in front of Judge David Mazurek in a Joshua Tree courtroom on Jan. 12, Mazurek denied the permanent restraining order despite the 23-year-old reporting Garcia had recently been abusive to her.
To read the full story, see Thursday's Daily Press. To subscribe to the Daily Press in print or online, call (760) 241-7755 or clickhere.
Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.
Family say courts shut down restraining orders
By Stacy Moore
Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 3:01 AM CST
TWIN PEAKS — Sunday’s murder-suicide was the culmination of months of threats and online and text rants from Stephen Garcia to Katie Tagle of Yucca Valley and her family.
The mother of a 9-month-old boy, Wyatt, with Garcia, Tagle was never able to secure a restraining order against him for herself or an order for supervised visitations for their son.
“This was preventable. This didn’t have to happen,” Tagle’s mother, Maria Brown said the day after Wyatt’s death.
“The system failed Wyatt. It cost him his life.”
Her family said Garcia abused Tagle throughout their two-year relationship, which ended in August 2009, when, her family said, he punched her in the face, knocking her unconscious.
Tagle brought Wyatt back to her family house in Yucca Valley, but frequently took him to visit Garcia’s parents in Piñon Hills.
Garcia, her family said, did not seem especially interested in Tagle or their son until December 2009, when he discovered she was involved with another man.
“That’s when he wigged out,” Tagle’s sister Andrea Rodriguez of Hesperia said.
In letters on a Web site he set up to chronicle his communications to her and her friends, Garcia cursed at Tagle and told her to return to him.
During one custody exchange with Wyatt, he proposed to her, then knocked her to the ground.
Judge denies first restraining order
On Dec. 15, Tagle asked for an emergency restraining order against Garcia, telling Judge Debra Harris in a Joshua Tree courtroom that Garcia had threatened Wyatt.
“He had sent me text messages before that if his son was around certain people … that he would kill him,” Tagle told the judge, according to transcripts of the hearing.
“And that if I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, he’d find me and kill me.”
“What about the threat to shoot you, where did that occur, to hunt you down and shoot you with a gun?” the judge asked.
“That was in a text message, Tagle replied.
When Harris asked for copies of the text messages, Tagle said she had no way of printing them out and her phone was shut off.
The judge denied the emergency order and set a hearing.
Garcia ‘doesn’t pose a threat’
At that hearing, on Jan. 12, Tagle went before Judge David Mazurek in the Joshua Tree courthouse to show cause for a restraining order.
“…On Dec. 31, we were doing our exchange, and he proposed to me, and I said no. He got angry and stole my phone and pushed me down. I made a police report about that,” Tagle told the judge, according to a transcript.
Garcia told the judge the report was “falsely made up.”
Mazurek denied Tagle the restraining order.
“If I grant the restraining order, how do you think that’s going to help with respect to you two being able to raise Wyatt together or work together to make sure Wyatt grows up happy and healthy?” the judge asked, according to the transcripts.
“He would have both of us still,” Tagle responded.
Asked about an e-mail in which he confessed to hitting Tagle, Garcia told the judge he had slapped her during a fight, but it was Tagle’s fault for “pushing and pushing and pushing until she could get something from me.”
Tagle pointed out she was nine months pregnant when Garcia hit her.
“I kind of get an idea of what’s going on,” Mazurek said.
He denied the restraining order, saying, “I don’t think that Mr. Garcia poses a threat to Ms. Tagle.”
Mazurek went on to suggest Tagle might have ulterior motives for alleging domestic violence.
“I get concerned when there’s a pending child custody and visitation issue and in between that, one party or the other claims that there’s some violence in between. It raises the court’s eyebrows because based on my experience, it’s a way for one party to try to gain an advantage over the other,” he said, according to the transcripts.
The day after the hearing in Mazurek’s courtroom, Garcia sent a text message telling Tagle to check her e-mail. In it was an anonymous message containing a story called “Necessary Evil.”
The story describes in detail Tagle’s and Garcia’s relationship, from their fights over his video-game addiction, to their breakup, to her new relationship and his failed proposal.
In the end, the story has two endings. In “Happy Ending,” the female character returns to the man.
In “Tragic Ending,” the character takes his son to a lake, puts him to sleep with Benadryl and the baby dies. “He will have a better life with you then (sic) we can give him here,” the man tells God before taking his own life.
Tagle called 9-1-1 after reading the story, and the responding deputy immediately went to the courthouse and obtained an emergency restraining order for her, signed by Mazurek.
However, in Victorville court Jan. 14, Judge Robert Lemkau would not uphold the restraining order and ordered Tagle to immediately give Wyatt to Garcia, as it was the day his scheduled visitation was to begin.
Transcripts from that hearing are not yet available, but family and friends who were in the court that day with Tagle said the judge appeared not to have read the evidence she presented, including the “Necessary Evil” story and the emergency restraining order obtained by a sheriff’s deputy.
“Just from the very beginning, he didn’t want to listen,” said Rick Tagle, who was in the courtroom. “He started out by saying, ‘One of you is lying and I think it’s you,’ and pointing at Katie.”
The judge also allegedly warned Tagle there would be consequences for lying.
Lemkau did not respond to an e-mail request for comment; the county does not provide judges’ office telephone numbers.
The following Sunday, when Garcia missed his arranged custody transfer with Tagle, she had to call a deputy to get Wyatt back from Garcia’s house.
Friends say discouraged and frightened by her last appearance in court, she did not seek another restraining order or custody change.
“She was afraid she would go before the judge who called her a liar,” her sister said.
Pursuit Ends in Murder-Suicide
A two-and-a-half-year romantic relationship gone sour came to a tragic end early Sunday when a distraught father led sheriff's deputies on a chase through the mountains before pulling into a snowbank in Blue Jay and killing his infant son and himself.
Deputies said Stephen Charles Garcia, 25, of Pinon Hills, shot his 9-month-old son Wyatt at 1:19 a.m. before turning his Walther P-99 pistol on himself on a lonely stretch of Old Toll Road.
Aided by a department helicopter, sheriff's deputies, who had pursued Garcia after deputies from the Hesperia station had trailed him into the mountains, arrived at the scene only seconds after the fatal shots were fired, said Twin Peaks Lt. Dwight Brink.
"Deputies from the Hesperia station were following him," Brink said. "Local deputies were staged, and intercepted him. It was hard to keep him in sight," he added, given the icy condition of roads in the Twin Peaks and Blue Jay areas that night.
Twin Peaks deputies backed off their pursuit, Brink said, for fear that an innocent person might be injured.
"It was pretty miraculous that no one was hurt in the chase," Brink said, "and that there was no damage to any other vehicles. There were very treacherous conditions for a chase."
According to a Twin Peaks crime report, members of the family of Katie Tagle, Wyatt's mother, own three homes on Peak Spur Road in Twin Peaks, perhaps offering an explanation for why Garcia fled into the mountains.
FORMER ARROWHEAD RESIDENTS
Another possible explanation is that, according to a statement filed in court by Tagle during her legal wrangles with Garcia, the two had lived together in Lake Arrowhead at an unspecified previous time.
Throughout the day on Jan. 30, Garcia reportedly was in near constant phone or texting contact with Tagle, repeating threats to kill their son if they could not reconcile and inviting her to join them so he could kill them all and they could be together in heaven.
Garcia left a rambling, emotional 17-paragraph suicide note in his white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. Until the chase reached its fatal conclusion, Wyatt sat, strapped in a child's seat, in the back seat of the extended-cab truck. A copy of the note was obtained by this newspaper.
Throughout the note, titled "So This is Goodbye," Garcia stressed his great disappointment over not being able to reconcile with Tagle, with whom he had lived in his parents' home before-reportedly tired of being physically abused by him-she moved to Yucca Valley.
"Everyone kept saying give it time, keep going to court, keep doing what your doing," Garcia's farewell letter stated. "No body got it. Not even Katie. I didn't want to fight Katie. I didn't want shared custody of Wyatt. I wanted my family back.
"What good is having Wyatt full time, or 50/50 without Katie. I would of had to live with my parents forever, be alone, have Wyatt go back and forth for years to the guy Katie cheated on me with," Garcia wrote. "I would of never been happy."
'LOVE YOUR FAMILY'
The note, obtained from Tagle's family by the Hi-Desert Star of Yucca Valley, this newspaper's sister publication, finished by stating, "I'm sorry. We love all of you. Be with your family. Live out your lives, be happy. Do not dwell on what I have done. Move on with your lives and cherish every minute of it. HOLD AND LOVE YOUR FAMILY! PLEASE IT'S MY FINAL WISH."
The note also has a paragraph addressed to members of Katie's family and certain of the couple's acquaintances, who apparently attempted to head off any possible reconciliation.
"I will see you in f______ hell," the bitterly worded paragraph reads. "I held the gun, you pulled the trigger. I cried for help. I told you this would happen. I told you to help me get my family back but you laughed at me...the blood is on your hands."
Along with the note, this newspaper also obtained from Tagle's family a copy of a court document which suggests Wyatt might still be alive had a judge ruled differently on a petition Tagle filed in a Victorville court just 10 days before the murder-suicide.
In her petition, heard by Judge Robert Lemkau, Tagle requested a restraining order against Garcia and a permanent end to his unsupervised Thursday-through-Sunday visits with Wyatt. Instead, Tagle requested supervised-only visits, said Stacy Moore, managing editor of the Hi-Desert Star, who interviewed members of Tagle's family.
A week earlier, Moore said, Judge David Mazurek, assigned to the Joshua Tree courthouse, had issued an emergency protective order, temporarily banning Garcia from unsupervised visits with Wyatt.
'DIDN'T WANT TO LISTEN'
Moore quoted Rick Tagle, Katie's ex-husband and father of her son Dakota, as telling her, "The (Victorville) judge had not read the exhibits. Just from the very beginning, he didn't want to listen. He started out by saying, 'one of you is lying. I think it's you,' and pointed to Katie."
Moore said Rick Tagle told her Lemkau ordered Katie and Garcia to work out their differences in mediation. He then reinstated Garcia's unsupervised visits, Tagle's family told Moore.
In her petition, Tagle claims Garcia is mentally ill. She states he had sent her an e-mail on Jan. 13 under the pseudonym "John Hancock." The e-mail included a story he'd written, titled Necessary Evil, which told how he views their relationship.
The narrative unfolds in a way "ultimately leaving the petitioner (Tagle) with the ultimatum of reconciling or otherwise respondent (Garcia) was going to drug parties' nine-month-old son to death before respondent takes his own life. This was to take place by the 'lake,' referring to Lake Arrowhead where parties used to reside together."
The petition does not state where the couple had lived locally, nor how long they lived here.
The short story, a copy of which was also obtained by this newspaper, lists two endings, one happy and another tragic. In the first the couple reconciles, while in the second the father kills himself and his sons.
HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
The petition also claims Garcia "has a history of hitting petitioner." She quoted an e-mail he had sent her, in which he reportedly said, "I'm sorry for hitting you."
Another document from Tagle's family is a printout from Garcia's MySpace page in which he refers to Rylee Skye Garcia. Moore said she was told Rylee is the daughter Stephen Garcia fantasized having with Tagle. Rylee's mythical life span is listed as 5/9/2007 through 12/9/09. Moore said the former date was when Garcia met Tagle, while the latter is when he reportedly learned Tagle was in a relationship with another man.
The materials from Tagle's family also include a document described as Garcia's second-to-last letter to her. It's a single-spaced, six-page missive which caustically attacks Tagle for hiding the identity of her new lover and, with the extensive use of profanity in capital letters, challenges her to examine her life.
A final document from Tagle's family purports to be a Facebook message, running five pages long, sent to Katie on Jan. 17. It has countless repetitions of the same eight words: "How is he, is he ok? call now," apparently referring to Wyatt.
Detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department are investigating the murder-suicide. The department asks anyone with information about the incident to contact Sgt. Frank Montanez or Detective Ryan Ford of the department's Division of Specialized Investigations at (909) 387-3589.