A Deschutes County jury on Friday convicted a Redmond couple of starving to death their 5-year-old daughter.
Maliyha Hope Garcia weighed 24 pounds when she died on December 21st, 2016.
Estevan Garcia and Sacora Horn-Garcia were found guilty of aggravated murder and two counts each of criminal mistreatment – one count for withholding food, a second count for withholding proper medical care.
After a nearly month-long trial, the jury deliberated for less than a day before handing down the unanimous decision. Sentencing is scheduled for November 18th.
Sacora Garcia-Horn, 33, had three children when she married Estevan Garcia in December 2014. Garcia, 36, brought Maliyha, his niece who he previously adopted as his daughter.
The trial was emotional for many of the witnesses who took the stand, but Friday’s verdict provided closure for some.
“I’m thankful to the jury and to the prosecutors and the entire team, and all the hard work that they did,” said Emily Groves, a former daycare provider for Maliyha until late 2015. “They really put a lot of effort and they didn’t let anything go. And, the decision that came out today was the right decision and the only decision that Mali deserved.”
Prosecutors had said the couple starved Maliyha to death by withholding food and restricting her movements around the family’s home.
Sacora Horn-Garcia testified that the Maliyha frequently got out of bed at night to find food, among several defiant behaviors.
Garcia testified that he provided Maliyha with after-dinner snacks such as peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars to discourage her from getting out of bed during the night. He told jurors when he was out of the home working as a grocery store manager, he assumed his wife was providing similar care to the child.
The defense said in closing arguments they didn’t dispute Maliyha died of starvation. They questioned whether Estavan Garcia was fully aware of the little girl’s condition.
The defense for Sacora Horn-Garcia argued she was a good mother to Maliyha.
The couple exchanged thousands of texts about Maliyah’s behavior, which the defense portrays as documentation of a breakdown of the marriage and may have clouded the couples’ ability to understand what was happening to Maliyah.