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5. Case Closed26:52He almost got away with it. Almost, but not quite. Listen to the stunning conclusion of what happens when suspect Daniel Garcia is asked to simply tell the truth about what happened to Saba Girmai back in 1985. This is the final episode of our first limited edition series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]On last week’s episode -- investigators were finally able to meet the man they thought was a suspect in the death of 21-year-old Ethiopian immigrant Saba Girmai. But over the course of a two hour conversation, Daniel Garcia, suspect number one, suddenly began to break any and all theories about his involvement in the case, providing reasonable doubt at every turn. Then suddenly, the course of the conversation changes, and finally, the death of Saba Girmai may see some closure.This is the Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[opening bumper]]Episode 5: Case ClosedSaul Jaeger: “I got a lot to lose.” That was the moment that changed everything for Detective Chris Kikuchi and Investigator Nate Wandruff. Everything that had been assumed, every second that they felt their one shot at solving this case was slipping away, suddenly, they were right back in it. Chris Kikuchi: When we first met, we always like to establish rapport with someone. We’ve never met them before. We asked questions related to his family, and he was very talkative, which is good, because anytime someone will speak, we just like letting them continue on as long as they do. Because we want that person to become comfortable speaking with the police. And he was. Katie Nelson: Let’s look at that a little more closely. Why is rapport with anyone, but particularly a suspect, so important in investigations? According to the work Investigative Interviewing: Rights, Research, Regulation, published in 2006, rapport with an interview subject, including suspects, in a criminal case, is “the heart of the interview.” In fact, in a study titled: Police Interviewing and Interrogation, establishing some kind of rapport with a suspect was the fourth most used technique during questioning. In short, rapport in this case was a huge factor in establishing any sort of communication line between Daniel Garcia and the detectives. Having never met before, this rapport was vital to establishing a quick, but solidly built, foundation on which the interview could continue in hopes of having any resolution to the case. Chris Kikuchi: He kind of portrayed himself as pretty relaxed as he was speaking with us. He was very talkative. He wasn’t asking too many questions, which you kind of expect. If detectives come out to speak with you during a probation meeting, he wasn’t asking a lot of questions, which I thought was peculiar. Saul Jaeger: “Peculiar,” Kikuchi said. Remember, Kikuchi was concerned that this expedition down to Fresno would not lead to any results and thus far, he seemed to be somewhat right. But was Daniel Garcia’s lack of questions proof of his innocence? Or perhaps, proof that maybe, there is something more there? Chris Kikuchi: As we were speaking, he just basically got into a little more detail about an incident that occurred regarding her basically stating she had scratched him. And that was how the DNA was under her fingernails. Unprovoked, she had scratched him. Again, that’s during some incident where she was asking him for food or alcohol. He said no. She scratched him. So, that’s how he kind of explained the DNA. Katie Nelson: A perfectly plausible reason for why Daniel Garcia’s DNA was underneath Saba’s fingernails. The fact that we had the DNA at all was extraordinary, as you learned back in Episode 2. And, if Daniel Garcia had stuck with that story in fact, he would have technically been the victim of an assault. Chris Kikuchi: At that point, he kept on mentioning that, he never admitted harming her or doing anything to her at that point. So we just kind of stressed, “Look, just tell us the truth, that’s all we want. We just want hte truth.” At which point, then he started giving a little bit more. He said something to the effect of “I have a lot to lose.” Then he finally gave a little bit more detail and description as to what happened during the incident. We’re getting something now, right? And we just wanted him to continue talking. Saul Jaeger: And there was about to be another bombshell.Katie Nelson: Similar to other episodes, what you are about to hear is actual audio from the interview with Daniel Garcia. It contains strong language and content that is not suitable for all listeners. Discretion is strongly advised. Chris Kikuchi: Just the truth, that’s all we want.Saul Jaeger: “We just want the truth.” It’s what they had come for all along. Five small words, and yet a very crucial request. Daniel Garcia looked at the detectives then, and something, some essence in the room, shifted. And that was when everything changed. Daniel Garcia: We got into a confrontation. Yeah, we did. We got into a confrontation. As I was getting into my car, she jumped in the car. I told her to get out. She didn’t want to get out. I reached over and I grabbed her. She passed out, and I didn’t know she passed out. I just thought she was passed out. And she didn’t move anymore. I drove somewhere, I don’t know where it was, and I thought she was still alive, and I threw her in the garbage can. Katie Nelson: “Threw her in the garbage can?” Is that what someone who is innocent does to someone who they think may still be alive?Daniel Garcia: I went home. Nobody else was involved. Just me and her. That’s how it went down. It was fast. I don’t know what happened to her after that, I’ve never seen her again until you showed me that. Now I know what happened to her. Detective whispers: “Wow.”Saul Jaeger: A shocking admission. After professing they had never touched, Daniel Garcia admits to discarding Saba’s limp body into the trash. If you listen closely, you can even hear one of the detectives breathe, “Wow,” in the stunned silence that follows Garcia’s revelation. Daniel Garcia: It wasn’t a big argument. It was over in a matter of minutes. I just remember strangling her. Chris Kikuchi: How did you do it?Daniel Garcia: With my hand. Chris Kikuchi: With your left hand?Daniel Garcia: I don’t think both of them. I don’t remember. I just remembered I strangled her. But I never, ever did anything else to her. I never had sex with her, nothing. Investigator Wandruff: Alright. Alright. Katie Nelson: And there it was, in all its honest, albeit initially brief, detail. After nearly 30 years, detectives were finally hearing from the mouth of the man who killed Saba just what had happened. It had been a long, slow road to this moment. Relief, and almost a sense of bewilderment on the part of the detectives, can be heard as they said ‘Alright’ in response to what Garcia was saying. He almost got away with it. Almost, but not quite. It was ultimately asking for the truth that set this case free. At 2:05 p.m. on January 3, 2013, Detective Chris Kikuchi read Garcia his Miranda rights. Chris Kikuchi: I’m just going to read your Miranda warrant, ok? Daniel Garcia: What?Chris Kikuchi: Your Miranda rights, ok? You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand?Daniel Garcia: Yes.Chris Kikuchi: Anything you say may be used against you in court, do you understand?Daniel Garcia: Yes.Chris Kikuchi: You have the right to the presence of an attorney before and during any questioning, do you understand?Daniel Garcia: Yes.Chris Kikuchi: If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you, free of charge before any questioning if you want, do you understand?Daniel Garcia: Yes. Chris Kikuchi: Ok. Katie Nelson: And then, we began to learn just what happened the day Saba was killed, inside a white Ford station wagon, outside an apartment complex in San Jose on January 18, 1985.Here is Daniel Garcia, in his confession, telling Kikuchi and Wandruff just what happened. Just another reminder: This section contains strong language. Listener discretion is advised. Daniel Garcia: It was like I was telling you. I got home from work, same story. I got home from work, I sat down. I was eating my dinner. She came over asking me for money, food, stuff like that. I told her, “I work hard for mine, you need to get a job bitch. Leave me alone.” She kept pestering me. I got up, she slapped me. And then she scratched me. I just went to my room, thought nothing of it. Came back downstairs, she was still there. Again, she got in my face. I told her to get out of my face, you know what I mean. Get out of my face. And she kept blah blah blah blah blah blah. Investigator Wandruff: So what happened during the second confrontation. She got up in your face, you said. What does that mean? Daniel Garcia: Yeah, she got up and she started calling me names, you know what I mean, and stuff like that. Investigator Wandruff: Yeah, but do you remember what she called you?Daniel Garcia: Fucker, asshole, whatever. You know what I mean? I told her to get out of my face And she just kept going and going. And then I jumped in my car. She jumped in my car. She wouldn’t get out of my car. I kicked her. Told her to get out of my car. Investigator Wandruff: What car were you in, do you remember?Daniel Garcia: Oh that car is no longer around. Investigator Wandruff: No that’s ok, I’m just ...Daniel Garcia: It was a Ford. Investigator Wandruff: A Ford?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, it was a Ford wagon. What year it was I don’t even remember. Investigator Wandruff: A Ford wagon. What color was it?Daniel Garcia: White.Investigator Wandruff: White. Daniel Garcia: I was really going to my dad’s when the second confrontation happened. Never made it to my dad’s. All I can remember is she kept going at it, jumped in my car. When we were in my car, she was still asking for beer and money and something to eat. And I kicked her and told her to ‘Get the fuck outta my car.’Investigator Wandruff: So wait a second, why was she attacking you? Did she think you owed her money? Did you guys do dope together? Did she owe you dope? Did you owe dope? So none of that. Why was she so focused on you?Daniel Garcia: I don’t know. Probably because I called her some names. Investigator Wandruff: You called her some names. Ok you called her “bitch” and “hoe” and whatever else. Do you remember anything else? Daniel Garcia: No. That was just about it. I kept calling her ‘f-ing bitch’ ‘f-ing bitch.’ Telling her to get the hell away from me. Investigator Wandruff: Did you say ‘Leave me alone.’ ‘Fuck off?’ Anything of that?Daniel Garcia: Yeah. Investigator Wandruff: And she just kept coming at you? Was she still calling you names?Daniel Garcia: She was following me to the car. Cussing me out. Like I was her old man. Investigator Wandruff: Was she actively intoxicated? Or high? Or …Daniel Garcia: She was slurring her words. You know what I mean? But like I said, she talked funny anyways. She was slurring her words and she wouldn’t just leave me alone. Investigator Wandruff: So you got in the driver's side?Daniel Garcia: Yeah.Investigator Wandruff: How did she get in the car?Daniel Garcia: Through the passenger’s side. Investigator Wandruff: Was it unlocked?Daniel Garcia: The windows were down. The windows didn’t work on the car. Investigator Wandruff: So you got in? What did you say when you got in the car?Daniel Garcia: I told her to get the fuck out. Investigator Wandruff: Just like that? Is that when you kicked her?Daniel Garcia: Yup. Investigator Wandruff: Where did you kick her?Daniel Garcia: In the chest. Right here. Investigator Wandruff: Did you kick her hard?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, yeah I had my steel-toed boots on. Investigator Wandruff: Oh really?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, I was still coming from work. I had steel-toed boots on. Investigator Wandruff: Ok. Saul Jaeger: Steel-toed boots. In the small cabin of the Ford station wagon, amidst an argument about food, money, and beer, Daniel Garcia contorted his body to deliver a striking kick to Saba’s chest. The impact of steel on skin and bone had horrific consequences. It was such a power blow, Daniel Garcia could recall that “her eyes watered bad.”Daniel Garcia: I kicked her in the rib cage. Oh her eyes watered bad, but she wouldn’t get out of the car. That’s when I grabbed her by her throat. Investigator Wandruff: Right there, in the street? Wait a minute, was it dark or light out?Daniel Garica: It was, I would say it was a little bit light. Investigator Wandruff: But it was in the street, right?Daniel Garcia: Oh yeah, in the driveway right there in front of the apartment. Investigator Wandruff: Ok. Um, so, you kicked her, you told her to get the fuck out, before or after you kicked her?Daniel Garcia: Before. Investigator Wandruff: And then you kicked her. Daniel Garcia: Yeah, and then I told her to get out again. Investigator Wandruff: And she didn’t do it. Daniel Garcia: No.Investigator Wandruff: Did she come at you again?Daniel Garcia: No. Investigator Wandruff: So what happened?Daniel Garcia: Nothing. That’s when I reached over and grabbed her by the throat and I said, ‘You’re gonna get out one way or the other.’ She just passed out in the front seat. From there, I don’t … I remember driving somewhere and I threw her out of the car into the trash can. Saul Jaeger: Daniel Garcia is right handed. In his confession, he stated he believed he used only his right hand to strangle Saba. According to Garcia, the ordeal lasted roughly one minute. Investigator Wandruff: When you grabbed her, what hand did you grab her with?Daniel Garcia: This hand. Investigator Wandruff: Right hand. Are you right handed?Daniel Garcia: Yeah. Investigator Wandruff: You do everything right-handed, you throw, cut, everything? You grab her like this? Did you use one hand or both hands?Daniel Garcia: I think I just used the one hand. Investigator Wandruff: Because she has injuries on both sides of her neck. Do you remember if she had a neck you could reach your hand all the way around?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, she probably did. She was real thin. Investigator Wandruff: Is that when she scratched you?Daniel Garcia: No. She scratched me before. Investigator Wandruff: Ok.Katie Nelson: It’s incredibly painful to hear about Saba’s final moments, but each second in these cases must be accounted for. The more information Daniel Garcia could give investigators, the more they could ensure they had all the information necessary to successfully close Saba’s case. But, hearing about these final moments of Saba’s life wasn’t easy. And, it was about to get even harder. Investigator Wandruff: What did she do when you grabbed her by the neck?Daniel Garcia: She was swinging, you know what I mean? And then she just went “uh.”Investigator Wandruff: Ok. Daniel Garcia: I thought I had her long enough just to make her lose her breath. Investigator Wandruff: You grab her by the neck, and you start to squeeze. You feel like you were squeezing hard? Now, granted, you had lost your temper at this point, right? You were pissed. Were you saying anything to her when you were choking her? Daniel Garcia: No. Not that I can remember now. I probably did, but I don’t remember. Investigator Wandruff: Was she saying anything to you?Daniel Garcia: She was cussing at me and stuff. Trying to hit me. Investigator Wandruff: She tried to hit you. Did she connect?Daniel Garcia: No. Investigator Wandruff: How long did that struggle go on?Daniel Garcia: About a minute. Investigator Wandruff: Ok, and what ended up happening? When you grabbed her?Daniel Garcia: I was like this and she was there and I told her to get out of my car and she didn’t want to get out of my car so I scooted over and I kicked her. And she kept coming at me. Yelling at me and stuff and I just went like that and I grabbed her. And I just drove, I guess to Mountain View, or wherever else I don’t remember, I just got in the car and got on the freeway and I remember throwing her in the trash can. Investigator Wandruff: A trash can?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, and I said, ‘Fucking bitch.’ You know what I mean?Investigator Wandruff: So, a trash can?Daniel Garcia: Yeah, a trash can.Investigator Wandruff: Like a little trash can?Daniel Garica: No, no a big dumpster. Investigator Wandruff: Oh a dumpster, and where was the dumpster?Daniel Garcia: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t. You know what I mean? That part I don’t remember. Saul Jaeger: You may be asking yourself: Why do investigators keep asking the same question over and over again? Why are they continually clarifying what Garcia says? Because any shred of doubt and confusion about what he may have said or meant could be a hole in their interview and could pose problems down the road when the case goes to trial. They must know every detail, every second, they must confirm every comment. Katie Nelson: Garcia became upset when he realized just what he had done. Daniel Garcia: And when I got the alley, I pulled up and shook her like that and she didn’t do nothing again and, I touched her hand and she was cold. Investigator Wandruff: Is that when you knew she was dead?Daniel Garcia: Mhm.Investigator Wandruff: Let me back up just a little bit.Daniel Garcia: That was when I threw her in the trash can. Investigator Wandruff: I understand. So when you let go of her and she wasn’t moving, is that when you started to freak out? Did you think maybe she was dead then?Daniel Garcia: No, I thought she was playing possum because I kicked her pretty hard and maybe she lost her breath or something. Investigator Wandruff: I guess what I’m asking Daniel is, were you panicking because you thought you might have killed her?Daniel Garcia: Yeah it happened so fast. Investigator Wandruff: Did you think that that moment you might have killed her?Daniel Garcia: Yeah. Investigator Wandruff: Is that what you were afraid of? Did you panic and go “Oh shhhhh…”Daniel Garcia: I just remember getting on the freeway, driving, I looked down and I was almost out of gas and I gotta get back. So I just got off, went behind somewhere, there was a bin and over. Investigator Wandruff: You had her in the car, you got on the freeway, at some point you said you reached over and you touched her hand. Is that because you were checking on her? To see how she was doing?Daniel Garcia: Yeah.Investigator Wandruff: And so what did you do? Tell me what you did.Daniel Garcia: That was when I really freaked out. That was when I thought she was cold. And I thought, ‘Oh shit, now she’s dead.’ Now I’m thinking ‘Oh shit she’s dead, she’s dead. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?’ Katie Nelson: That hand touch was such a small gesture, but it had such huge repercussions. He knew she was dead. But, he never called for help. He just knew that Saba Girmai, the young Ethiopian immigrant who was maybe a little rough around the edges, had her life cut short. Too short. Investigator Wandruff: Well how did you end up deciding on a dumpster? How did that go? What happened?Daniel Garcia: Like I said, I looked down and I was almost out of gas. And I knew I was on the freeway somewhere and I had to get back home before I ran out of gas. And, I had no money. So if I had run out of gas, it would have been over with. Saul Jaeger: This detail really struck investigators. Here was Garcia talking about his concern about how much gas he had in the tank when he had a dead woman slumped over next to him in the car. Katie Nelson: In total, Garcia stated, the entire incident, from the time he and Saba fought in his car, to him dumping her lifeless body in the Safeway dumpster, lasted about one hour. When Garcia pulled over to remove Saba from the car, he pulled her body so hard that when he lifted her up, her belt broke. Pieces, he recalled, were left in his car.Daniel Garcia: I just grabbed her and when I threw her in there, she had her pants on. Because they were not in the car in the morning. In the morning, I went to the car wash and I sucked up all the belt pieces. There was no clothing in the car. Investigator Wandruff: Did you vacuum the whole car?Daniel Garcia: Mhm.Investigator Wandruff: How come you did that?Daniel Garcia: Why? I don’t know, I just wanted to vacuum all the pieces of the belt up. Because there was, I forget what you call that crap, you know I was vacuuming it up and I thought I’d just vacuum the whole car. Investigator Wandruff: Of course, there was a dead girl in there. Daniel Garcia: Yeah. Saul Jaeger: Was it possible during all of this, when Daniel Garcia was sure no one saw him, that he was having doubts? Is that why he went to such great lengths to remove all traces of Saba from his car? Because wasn't it possible that one of the witnesses, whose interviews were detailed back in episode 1, could have heard or seen him? What about the father, whose daughter was up late studying when she heard the ruckus outside of her window? What about teh car that another witness saw in the area with a black woman inside? Were one of these memories possibly Saba and Daniel Garcia?After he detailed the crime to investigators, Garcia offered something more. He would take investigators to the residence in San Jose where he had killed Saba. [[Interlude]]Katie Nelson: Three hours later, investigators were brought to a place they were already familiar with -- the Reed Street apartment where Daniel Garcia had said he had lived with his cousin back in 1985. Garcia noted he remembered the 7-Eleven on the left side of the complex. Sitting in the back of the car, Garcia pointed up to a second story window with its lights on, noting that ‘that was his room.’As he and investigators walked up to the front of the complex, Garcia pointed to a green chair on the front porch of an apartment and stated that was where he was eating when he encountered Saba, when things began to devolve. “She was asking me for money, food, she wanted my beer,” he told investigators. “I told her no. Then, I got up. She slapped me and I called her a name and then she scratched me. I went upstairs.”Garcia noted that he took his food, and his beer, with him. But then, Garcia came back out a short while later. And, Saba was still there.Saul Jaeger: As he walked outside, Garcia said Saba began yelling at him, and when he “jumped” into his car, she did too. That was when, he said, he started to panic. Garcia then took investigators on the route he believed he took to get to Mountain View, where he would discard Saba’s body in the dumpster. Katie Nelson: Officers drove onto Reed Street before getting onto Highway 280, a major thoroughfare in the South Bay that shoots off to both San Francisco and the East Bay. Garcia stated that by the time the fight ended, to the time he discarded Saba’s body in the dumpster, it was about a half hour. As detectives followed Garcia’s instructions, they retraced the final leg of the journey, heading down an alley behind Safeway to park. According to Daniel Garcia, he had only known who Saba was for roughly a week before he killed her. They had never socialized together, never shared a meal. They had hardly even spoken to one another. Just passing ships, so to speak.Saul Jaeger: After his entire confession, Daniel Garcia was officially arrested for the murder of Saba Girmai. Shortly thereafter, he would forgo a trial in lieu of immediate sentencing. Due to the length of time between when Saba was killed, and when her killer was identified, Daniel Garcia was sentenced to just over a decade in state prison.[[interlude]]Katie Nelson: It has been 35 years since Saba Girmai was discovered in the dumpster behind Safeway in Mountain View. Today, Saba would have just recently celebrated her 56th birthday. Much of her Silicon Valley world has evolved since her death, but then again, some of her world still remains. The Reed Street apartments where she and Garcia had that horrific, fateful interaction still stand. The Safeway where Saba was found is still there. For years, we wondered: would we ever know what happened to Saba Girmai? This semblance of closure was also due, in part, to Daniel Garcia’s cooperation and ultimately, his honesty. We may never know why Kikuchi’s final plea for the truth was what finally led him to speak out. We do know, though, that his confession, and Garcia’s willingness to finally come clean about what happened that January in the front seat of a Ford station wagon, was what helped bring some justice to Saba, and some closure to her family and her extended community. Saul Jaeger: If you liked what you heard throughout this series, and you’d like to let us know, leave your reviews and ratings on any listening platform you prefer on which you can find us. Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes, can be found on: Acast, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back soon with another story to tell on Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.Thank you for listening to The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. We want to extend our thanks to those who took the time to speak with us about this case, the complexities of investigative police work, and, we want to send a special acknowledgment to the family of Saba Girmai. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at pippa.io.We hope you have enjoyed listening to The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________Music sourcing:Interlude/interview background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAyFXPDUoPQ – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjoqx7wYbVw – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OnJidcj2CU – FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVl9frUzHsE – Over Time by Audionautixhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjh0OGDt58I – AshamaluevMusic
4. Who is Daniel Garcia?14:31Finally, when it seems like investigators are closing in on a man who may be connected to Saba Girmai's murder nearly thirty years later, it all begins to fall apart. In an hours-long interview with Fresno resident Daniel Garcia, detectives learn just how his DNA ends up under Saba's fingernails, and it's a perfectly plausible explanation. Once so full of hope, now investigators think that once again, Saba's killer may have slipped free. This is the fourth episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]On last week’s episode -- a new lead brought a new hope to a decades-old cold case. But as we began to reinvestigate the case, Saba’s life in and around Mountain View continued to remain shrouded in mystery, even more than two decades later. But with DNA evidence now tying a known criminal to the case, the question becomes -- how did Daniel Garcia know Saba Girmai?This is the Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[Opening bumper]]Episode 4: Who is Daniel Garcia?Katie Nelson: At the time, Garcia’s formative years were spent in a city once known as being part of “the Valley of Hearts’ Delight.” San Jose, once a bountiful farming and orchard community, began to shift into more of a concrete jungle towards the 1980s with the impetus of Silicon Valley beginning to show in companies that planted their seeds in and around the area, including Intel and IBM. San Jose’s population in the 1980s boasted more than 620,000 people, up from less than 450,000 just a decade earlier. Today, San Jose is home to more than 1 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the country. Fresno, Garcia’s new home, very much mirrored the growth of San Jose. Once a small farming community, Fresno has grown into a city of more than half a million people, making it the fifth most populous city in the state. San Jose is the third most populous. Daniel Garcia was no stranger to brushes with the law. In and out of the justice system for a majority of his adult life, the arrest record for Garcia was decades old, with crimes running the gamut. In fact, his adult record begins when he was just 20 years old, living in the San Jose area. In the span of seven years, from 1979 to 1986, Garcia was arrested five times by the San Jose Police Department. His arrests included multiple incidents where he was under the influence of a controlled substance and, at least once, he resisted arrest. His record begins to show even more aggressive behavior after he moved to the Fresno area. He was arrested for willfully harming a child, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, and driving under the influence, among other charges. His last arrest -- in December 2012 -- was just one month before he would meet Detective Chris Kikuchi and Investigator Nate Wandruff.[[interlude]]Saul Jaeger: But his arrest record doesn’t make up all of who Daniel Garcia is. Like every person, there’s more to his story.Daniel Garcia also is a father of four. He is a brother. And, he has a father who lives in Mexico, but they aren’t close. Daniel was a Bay Area native, born in San Jose, where he actually lived in the 1980s, after he left high school in Fresno. At least one former girlfriend would describe him as ‘cool.’When speaking with investigators, Garcia noted if he had stayed in high school, he would have graduated in 1978. Daniel Garcia is also a recovering drug addict. After dropping out of school, Garcia worked various labor jobs, digging trenches and working on construction sites. He was exposed early to drugs -- the seventh grade, he later recalled -- starting with uppers and downers. He avoided heroin, though, because a family member had died after using the drug, he stated. Garcia was sure of one thing, though, when it came to his preference when he was using -- his favorite drug was PCP. NEWS SAMPLE OF rampant PCP use in the 80’s Katie Nelson: Phencyclidine, sometimes known as angel dust, rocket fuel, killer weed, or the ‘peace pill,’ is actually an anesthetic. It sedates its users, creating a trance-like effect. Those who use PCP have described its effects as creating an ‘out of body’ experience. When someone uses PCP, they can, among other effects, experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, and a person can become exceptionally violent at the peak of their high. The drug is highly addictive, and can be fatal. According to Garcia, he used PCP for about 15 years, beginning after high school. He used PCP until just before 2000, when while high, he was involved in a serious collision that injured a woman. While high in Fresno, for example, Garcia said he and others engaged in a water fight in the backyard of a home. Police were called at some point. When officers arrived, one of them attempted to grab Garcia, and he noted that he thought it was a friend and actually “flipped him” over. Saul Jaeger: In another instance, Garcia experienced such intense hallucinations and paranoia during one high that he broke all of the windows at his mother’s home in Fresno, and yet another time, he removed all of his clothes. Garcia recognized he needed help after his collision in 1999, and he stayed sober for more than 13 years, he said. [[interlude]]Between 1984 and 1987, Garcia lived in and around the downtown area in San Jose. Though he didn’t have a license to drive, he said, he still drove around in his sister’s purple, 1968 Chevrolet Impala. When she took the car back, Garcia remembered buying a late 1960s plum-colored Plymouth Fury, which had a loud, aftermarket exhaust. He had that car for less than a year. According to Garcia, one day, the car experienced mechanical issues, so he dumped it in the Pacheco Pass, and it was impounded. He never saw it again. Garcia knew the Mountain View area, too, confiding at one point he even had an aunt that lived in the area. He knew of Moffett Field, but it had been years, perhaps, since he had been back. Katie Nelson: During some of his time living in San Jose, Garcia noted that he lived near a 7-Eleven, in a complex on Reed Street. At the time, he lived there with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend. This simple statement may become very important later. It was in that same complex that Garcia first met Saba. [[interlude]]Saba made quite an impression on Garcia, it seems. In speaking with investigators, he recalled her as being ‘thin’ and ‘wild.’When shown a picture of her nearly three decades later in 2013, Garcia didn’t hesitate in his acknowledgment that he recognized her.“I’ve seen her,” he said, underwhelmingly. When another picture was provided by Investigator Wandruff who, for clarification, asked if it was possible that Garcia maybe didn’t recognize Saba, or if, perhaps, he thought she was maybe a different woman.“No,” Garcia said. “I remember that face.”Here is Daniel Garcia talking about Saba as he knew her back in 1985. Saul Jaeger: Just a quick warning, what you are about to hear are portions of the actual interview with Daniel Garcia and the investigators. There may be content and language not appropriate for all listeners. Discretion is advised. Daniel Garcia: To me, she was just a happy, kooky, money-making girl. Yeah, she would come around sometimes with no shoes, no jacket, no nothing, crazy and hungry. And if you were drinking, she wanted your beer. You were getting high, she wanted to get high. That’s how she was, that was how I knew her. I mean, she wasn’t my girlfriend, she wasn’t nothing to me. She was just a trick around the complex. She came and left, came and left. That’s how she was. She came and left. Came and left. Sometimes, she’d be gone for two weeks, three weeks, then she’d show up again. Katie Nelson: In 1985, in fact, Garcia distinctly recalled an incident where Saba ‘scratched’ him as he was trying to eat. Daniel Garcia: It wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t a fight. I didn’t hit her. She scratched me. End of story, you know what I mean? I didn’t fight her, physically hit her, physically do anything to her. I’m just saying, I never had any contact other than being scratched by her. Sexually, physically, or anything. Besides her slapping me and clawing me. Saul Jaeger: According to Garcia, that was the last time he saw Saba. He moved, he said, sometime after that incident. He said when he went upstairs after the incident occurred, he noticed he was bleeding. He had scratches on his face. “When I went upstairs, I could see imprints from her fingers,” he noted. But initially that was as far as he provided. The next day, Garcia said, while at work, his father inquired what happened to his face. Garcia explained that he didn’t call police about the alleged attack because, in his words, “she didn’t have anywhere to go.”Garcia never told his cousin, with whom he lived, about the incident, nor, according to Garcia, did his cousin ever ask about the scratches on his face. However, and this is important, this was not what Garcia initially told Kikuchi and Wandruff. In his first iteration of the story, Garcia claimed he told his cousin about the attack, and that his cousin “laughed.”“Of course I was mad, but like I said, I wouldn’t hit a woman. I never have. She scratched me and I went inside and that was the end of it,” according to Garcia. Daniel Garcia: Yeah, well of course I was mad, but as I said I wouldn’t hit a woman. I never have. I went inside and that was the end of it. We got into a conflict there and she scratched me on my face. And when she did that, I went into my room. Chris Kikuchi: Why did you have a conflict?Daniel Garcia: Huh?Chris Kikuchi: Why did you have a conflict with her?Daniel Garcia: Because I was eating McDonald’s and she wanted my dinner because she was hungry. ‘Share your hamburger with me.’ ‘Share this with me.’ ‘Do this with me.’ And I said, ‘You need to leave. You don’t even live here.’ And she grabbed one of my beers and I grabbed it back and she went [[makes scratching noise]]. Like a cat. Chris Kikuchi: What did you do?Daniel Garcia: I went inside. I didn’t want no fight with a girl. Katie Nelson: A reasonable, and plausible, explanation as to why Garcia’s DNA was under Saba’s fingernails.Wandruff and Kikuchi has just spent two hours in a room with a man who they thought was the killer, and now this? Countless hours of planning, a three hour drive to Fresno, all leading up to this moment of … what, exactly?Was it really time to give up? Was this the last lead, the last hope for this case?Another half hour went by. Investigator Wandruff again reminded Garcia that his DNA was on Saba. “She scratched me,” he replied matter-of-factly. Wandruff pulled out a photo of Saba’s tombstone. Garcia looked at it, but denied he had done anything to her. Daniel Garcia: I don’t know man, I didn’t do it. Nate Wandruff: Didn’t do what?Daniel Garcia: This right here. I know what that is. It’s a tombstone. I’ve been telling you. I don’t know what happened to her. I didn’t do this right here. I would never take anybody’s life. Katie Nelson: Perhaps, this was it. Perhaps this was, in fact, the end. Perhaps, Saba’s killer had once again slipped free. One last shot. Asking, simply, for the truth. Nate Wandruff: How do you want to be perceived? How do you want people to look at you behind this incident?Chris Kikuchi: Just the truth. That’s all we want. Katie Nelson: And then … something incredible happened. Daniel Garcia: I don’t even know if I’m going to walk out of this room right now. I got a lot to lose.[[End episode]] Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at pippa.io._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________Source material utilized in this podcastResearch sourcing:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose,_Californiahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fresno,_California https://drugfree.org/drug/pcp/Music sourcing:Interlude/interview background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAyFXPDUoPQ – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjoqx7wYbVw – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OnJidcj2CU – FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVl9frUzHsE – Over Time by Audionautixhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjh0OGDt58I – AshamaluevMusicAdditional resourcing:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWQdnBjr2dU Throwback Special Report: “Angel Dust”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWitRABYVBk Gil Scott-Heron, Pieces of a Man “Angel Dust”
3. A New Hope17:29Nearly 25 years after Saba was killed, a lead on this decades-old cold case emerges.But with this new hope comes an almost "too good to be true" feeling for one detectives. "Who in their right mind would admit to killing someone?" he wonders.But, he has a lead to follow, a case to build. It just comes down to one thing -- whether or not the man whose DNA is under the victim's fingernails admits to what he's done or, some believe more likely, provides the perfect seed of doubt to bring down the entire investigation. This is the third episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]On last week’s episode we talked about -- DNA, the ultimate tool to use to pursue investigative leads in a case. In 1985, in a remarkable adaptation well ahead of its time, a Santa Clara County coroner clipped fingernails that could, one day, hold the secrets to Saba’s killer. The investigation hit snags though, and soon turned cold. But when a new lead shows up more than two decades later, we have to ask ourselves -- are cold cases ever really cold?This is the Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[Opening bumper]]EPISODE 3: A NEW HOPESaul Jaeger: The start of the holiday season, a time of hope and goodwill. In 2008, while some began to string up lights at their home, gather family around to celebrate good tidings and cheer, at the Mountain View Police Department, it was a time of reflection, and certainly of cautious hope. On December 1, then Captain Max Bosel was head of the Mountain View Police Department’s Investigative Services Division, home to the trove of detectives who investigate cases ranging from homicide, to robbery, to kidnapping, to cold cases. “While assigned as the Special Operations Captain,” Bosel wrote in a supplemental report, “I reviewed the January 18, 1985 homicide of Saba Girmai. Based on the fact that the victim’s body was lifted into the dumpster where she was found, I believed the suspect’s contact DNA could have been left on the victim’s clothing or property. This technology was not available during the initial investigation.”“I inquired about the availability of evidence items in order to determine if there was physical evidence that could be analyzed for DNA,” Bosel went on to write. In his report, Bosel noted that five items were re-sent in hopes that, perhaps, after 23 years, advances in technology could present an opportunity to re-examine the case and perhaps even identify and arrest the person responsible for Saba’s gruesome murder. Katie Nelson: Those five items included:-- her black, plastic wrist watch, that had been found on her left wrist-- her blouse -- a sample of her scalp hair-- a sample of hair from other areas of her body-- and, fingernail clippings from both of her handsWhile he was never arrested, Bosel noted that the man some had described as Saba’s boyfriend was still a person of interest and, following any results from the Crime Lab, “should be contacted for an interview.”[[interlude]]The incredible news came in the form of an unremarkable fax on January 12, 2010, just after 6 a.m.In a letter dated just days before, a CODIS administrator with the California DNA Data Bank Program, a section of the California Department of Justice, wrote a letter to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Crime Lab.An excerpt from the note reads as follows: “The DNA profile from your evidence sample was submitted for search against the CAL-DNA Data Bank and resulted in a candidate match to an individual profile in the database. This offender hit constitutes an investigative lead in your case.” This was the moment everyone had been waiting for. This match, and the name included in the letter, was 23 years in the making. Saul Jaeger: But even with this incredible leap in the investigation, we could not get ahead of ourselves. We had to re-open the investigation as if to begin from scratch, and to build a case so airtight, that there would be no question, if an arrest was made, that we had our man. Nevertheless, we finally had a suspect. It took nearly 25 years, but there he was. Who was he? But as we said, first, we had to go back to the beginning. Katie Nelson: You see, when investigators catch a break on a cold case, they must be meticulous going forward. They have to essentially open a new investigation, with the original as well as any new evidence, to go back and ensure that there are no holes, that every question that could possibly arise has an answer. As Detective Kikuchi says: Chris Kikuchi: DNA is not enough. Because, that explanation of ‘yeah she scratched me’ during some kind of argument where she wanted food … technically, he’d be a victim. If she scratched him, if he stuck with that story, we would not have anything. Katie Nelson: You’ll hear more from Detective Chris Kikuchi later on in the series, but he was the lead detective assigned to the Saba Girmai investigation when it was reopened in 2012.Yes, 2012. If you’re listening closely, that’s four years after the DNA was resubmitted for testing. We’ll address that later in the podcast as well. Saul Jaeger: So, investigators began at square one with a decades-old homicide, but with two crucial pieces that had been missing for so long -- a lead … and hope. First on the list of interviews: Saba’s suspected boyfriend, who you’ll remember from the first episode failed his polygraph examination.We needed to figure out why that happened. On the morning of April 21, 2010, officers again interviewed Saba’s alleged former boyfriend.Remember, this man originally disputed his relationship with Saba, despite multiple people telling investigators they were an item. The man claimed he didn’t date her, only that they sometimes lived together. According to police reports, the man said the following:“With her personality, [[sic]] honestly, I don’t know where she could have been at any given time,” he added. (Saba) knew ‘various people,’ she had ‘a lot of friends and a lot of acquaintances,’ but she never took any of them to his residence. He also added that he “did not know any of the places Saba would frequent. He also did not know where she would go or which “club or bar” was using the red stamp that was discovered on Saba’s hand when she was found in the dumpster that January morning. More than 20 years later, he remained adamant that he had nothing to do with Saba’s murder. And, there was still no real answer as to why he had failed the polygraph exam. Katie Nelson: A small blow. But what we began to realize as we once again looked into this case, it was clearer than ever that Saba had a distinct inability to stay in one place for long. Detectives reached out to and spoke with several former friends and family members about Saba. Saba’s friend “Tena,” who had since relocated out of the area, stated she had known Saba while she lived with family in San Jose. Tena said Saba was “intelligent,” and that any accent she may have from her former life in Africa was long gone. She stated while Saba didn’t talk much about herself, she did “laugh” frequently and was seen often walking in and around San Jose. When pressed if she knew of any male companions Saba may have caught a ride with, Tena stated she never “saw any male with Saba, so she would not be able to identify any suspects by looking at photographs.”Even years after her death, Saba’s life was still very much shrouded in mystery. [[interlude]]Saul Jaeger: Throughout the re-opened investigation, Saba’s family was always on investigators’ minds. Helping them to learn the truth about what happened to her, and why, was paramount.Katie Nelson: The emotional implications of this case reached far and wide. Detectives realized that this wasn’t just about closure for the family, it was a little bit about closure for themselves as well. Again, here is Detective Chris Kikuchi.Chris Kikuchi: It’s a pretty horrible way for anybody to die. She was basically tossed out like trash, just thrown into a dumpster. And you know, partially clothed. I don’t know, it just, to me, she wasn’t treated as a human. Nobody should be killed, obviously, but to be disposed of in that manner, that was just horrible. Saul Jaeger: In April of 2010, investigators called Saba’s sister, who had come to visit California in 1984 with Saba. Much like with other interviews we conducted as we re-opened the case, Saba’s sister did not know much about Saba’s life once she came to California. Throughout this investigation, this was a common theme. But how could Saba’s sister not know what she was up to, where she had been? That question was never really answered in any of our reports. Nobody seemed to know where she was, or who she was with, at any given time. Again, remember, this was the age before cell phones, before social media, before any immediate way to contact somebody. Perhaps it was pretty easy to disappear.Katie Nelson: She said Saba did not tell her much, most likely because Saba thought her sister would not approve of her extracurricular activities. She did say that her sister, like how many others had described her, was “friendly,” but that she believed the way her sister lived her life “put (Saba) at risk.”She added, though, that she did not recognize the City of Mountain View nor know anyone who could have lived there. As we spoke with Saba’s sister, something resonated clearly that was noted in the report. When asked about Saba’s dating life, her sister noted that she believed Saba would have “fought a man off who tried to make a pass or [[sic]] advance on her” and that she believed, per a detective’s report, “this may have been what led to the victim’s death.”We heard this in a later interview with another friend of Saba’s -- she stated that she recalled a specific incident where she and Saba had been “chillin’ at someone’s house” when Saba had suddenly “become undone” when a man tried to make a pass at her. Was this the personal connection that led to Saba’s death? Did she tell someone ‘no?’Saul Jaeger: We also learned both from Saba’s sister and from another man detectives spoke to that Saba could not drive, and that “someone would always drive her.”Two night’s before Saba’s murder in 1985, Saba’s friend also recalled that Saba had suddenly shown up at her home, looking for a place to stay, saying she was unwell. She added that Saba at the time stated she “was refusing to go home to her boyfriend’s house,” according to the report. So, with this knowledge, we knew now, however Saba got to Mountain View, she didn’t get there on her own.Katie Nelson: Between January 2010, and July 2010, investigators worked not only to track down and re-interview as many people as they could, they were also looking to try and glean any information on who the new lead was and what motive they may have had. The case frustratingly stalled once again, as detectives and prosecutors tried to work out a strategy about how to move forward with such a heinous, but 25-year-old, case. It wasn’t until October 11, 2012, when newly minted Detective Chris Kikuchi -- we heard from him before -- was officially assigned as the lead investigator on the case. This would be Kikuchi’s first homicide investigation as a detective, and, it was his first cold case as a detective. You met Detective Chris Kikuchi briefly in the first episode. He’ll be playing a prominent role in the story going forward. Now assigned back to patrol, Kikuchi had been with Mountain View Police for 10 years when he obtained a coveted spot in the Crimes Against Persons Unit, the group of detectives assigned primarily to investigate homicides, domestic violence incidents, abuse and assaults. Saul Jaeger: As he began to dive into the case, much of what he needed was already there -- allowing him to bypass legwork that could have delayed the investigation even further. He was able to look over all the information that had been sent the year before, to see what DNA evidence was useful, and how that hopefully could lead to the arrest and conviction of Saba’s killer. Katie Nelson: That’s thanks to the good old fashioned police work we discussed in Episode 2 with Lt. Mike Canfield. Saul Jaeger: One thing that struck him in particular, was the way in which the Saba died. Chris Kikuchi: It was interesting just from the standpoint because obviously we knew how she died. It looked like a strangulation, she had petechiae in her eyes. She was dumped in a dumpster. Katie Nelson: According to WebMD, petechiae is a sign of blood leaking from capillaries under your skin. Capillaries are the tiniest blood vessels that connect arteries to veins. They help move oxygen and nutrients from your bloodstream to your organs and tissues. According to WebMD, leaking in the capillaries could be caused by an illness or by severe trauma, such as when you strain intensely for a long period of time, if you cough hard, if you vomit, if you lift heavy weights, or in our cause, because of strangulation. Saul Jaeger: Chris had everything he needed to take this case to the next step. In mid December, 2012, a team of Mountain View police detectives, including Detective Kikuchi, met with Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigator and former Mountain View Police Officer Nate Wandruff. Wandruff was then assigned to Cold Case investigations for the District Attorney’s Office and was brought in to help with the case. In that crucial meeting, Kikuchi and Wandruff, who had been colleagues for years, began to form a plan that will ultimately lead them to a real suspect. Katie Nelson: As much as information is crucial in an investigation to help move cases forward, relationships are equally important among investigators. Kikuchi and Investigator Wandruff were old colleagues, so they already had a solid relationship established going in to working together on an active cold case investigation. According to Kikuchi, this positive foundation of their relationship was huge. Chris Kikuchi: Absolutely. I think that’s true in any type of collaboration. If you feel that you know the other person and the other person knows you, or the team knows each other, there’s definitely a more positive influence because it’s not like you feel uneasy if it’s someone you don’t know.Katie Nelson: Chris Kikuchi and Nate Wandruff, after years of starts and stops, would finally be the ones to look straight into the eyes of a killer and get to know the man who murdered Saba Girmai.Or, was the DNA found under Saba’s fingernails, just another guy caught up in this case? Was the man whose DNA that hit in the state system, just some man who had a perfectly plausible explanation. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. It’s happened before. Who’s to say it wouldn’t happen this time?Chris Kikuchi: Any time we have an opportunity to speak with someone about any type of crime, I at least feel, somewhat reasonably that yeah, we can maybe get something from it. Maybe the person will slip. But in this case, like I said, given the fact that it was so many years ago, I wasn’t too confident, to be honest. I just kind of felt that, where were we going to go with this? My initial response was I thought: ‘He’ll deny it.’ Who in their right mind would admit to killing a person? Especially this many years after?Katie Nelson: He’s right. Who would, after all these years, admit to a crime that was more than two decades old? Who wouldn’t find a way to provide reasonable doubt? Who was the man investigators were tapped to talk to?That man … was Daniel Garcia. [[end episode]]Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at pippa.io._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________Source material utilized in this podcast https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/what-are-petechiaeMusic sourcing:Music sourcing:Interlude/interview background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAyFXPDUoPQ – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjoqx7wYbVw – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OnJidcj2CU – FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVl9frUzHsE – Over Time by Audionautixhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjh0OGDt58I – AshamaluevMusic
1. The Body in the Dumpster26:09It was a dewy January morning, just two days before the Bay Area would host its first Super Bowl, right in Mountain View's backyard at Stanford Stadium.When a man picking through the trash comes across a body while hoping to find some cans to earn a few extra bucks, the police are called. The story starts like this: A young woman, strangled to death, seemingly without any identity whatsoever. Her case baffles detectives.As they slowly learn about who the woman was, and where she came from -- her story spanning continents and major global moments that led to massive aid movements -- another pressing question begins to enter their minds: who would want to harm her? Who would discard her behind a grocery store, in a sleepy Silicon Valley town, and more importantly, why?Could a murder really happen in the home of high tech?This is the first episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________For those in need of audio assistance, or who are hard of hearing, we have included a transcript of this podcast for you here. Please see below.[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]] [[Opening bumper]]Episode 1: The Body in the Dumpster Saul Jaeger: He started the morning like he had others before – shuffling through dumpsters behind the Safeway on Stierlin Road, looking for any cans for which he could get maybe a couple bucks. It was early still, just before 7:30 a.m. on what witnesses, and police reports, described as a dewy January morning. He may get lucky. As he leaned over to pluck through the trash, the man startled. Amongst the cardboard boxes and the discarded fruits and vegetables, a leg poked out from one of the dumpster bins, dark in color. The man wasn’t sure if it was a mannequin, or worse, a body. He ducked back to the rear of the store, and alerted a manager. Something wasn’t right. [[steps on gravel]] The manager, and a few employees, walked back outside to the open dumpster, lids thrown back well before the man looking for cans arrived. Dew dusted the discarded waste, and as soon as the manager leaned over to inspect what was within, he turned around and went inside to call the police. [[Siren blaring]] A two-man fire crew were first on scene. Leaning into the bin, one firefighter reached out for a pulse, putting his two fingers to a wrist. The wrist was cold -- too cold. He stepped back and waited for the police to arrive. It was January 18, 1985. [[”Careless Whisper” by Wham! begins to play, newscasts of time overlap as reports are read]] Katie Nelson: That January was known as a “one of the most intense arctic outbreaks,” according to the National Weather Service. Wayne Gretsky scored his 400th career goal that month. VH1 debuted, and Madonna owned the radio waves with her “Like a Virgin.” Two days later, the first Super Bowl hosted in the Bay Area, at Stanford Stadium, would be televised across the US on three major networks. More locally, Silicon Valley was in its “Golden Age,” where tech was booming and we began to see the first iterations of the lore that this section of the Bay Area holds for modern day entrepreneurs. The CD-ROM had recently been introduced by Sony and Philips, revolutionizing the way in which we would come to share information and entertainment in the coming years. Apple had introduced the Macintosh just one year before in January 1984. And, the first “Windows” operating system was released by Microsoft. Mountain View, though, smack in the middle of all this growth, was still very much a suburb. Homes were ranch-style, and the local dump had closed not two years before to help restore the beloved shoreline and wetlands. Could a murder really happen in the home of high tech? This is Doug Johnson, longtime resident and historian of the Mountain View Police Department.Doug Johnson: I wondered what brought somebody to Mountain View back in 1985 because there wasn’t really a lot of reasons to come to this town. Shoreline was still landfill. The downtown was -- it hadn’t changed much since the 40s. Castro Street was two lanes in each direction and was basically empty. You could stand on the railroad tracks and you could look down at El Camino and see cars going by because there wasn’t really much going on, going on downtown. And, um, there was no club scene or anything like that. The only reason, the only regional draw if you will in Mountain View at the time, was probably St. James’ Infirmary. And it was kind of fun saloon with a ten-foot statue of Wonder Woman as you walked in the door and peanut shells all over the floor. Katie Nelson: In 1985, Mountain View certainly wasn’t the town that we know it today, with a bustling downtown and multi-billion dollar corporations. But again, could a city, now home to tech giants, and once thought of as a quaint corner of Silicon Valley, really be the place where someone could be murdered? Saul Jaeger: On that cold, winter morning, that’s exactly what Officers Schlarb and Barcelona were trying to find out when they made their way over to the Stierlin Road Safeway. As the men peered inside the dumpster, they saw a woman, lying face down, wearing a striped, long-sleeved shirt, a green sock still on her right foot. A gold and brown high-heeled shoe dangled from her covered foot. She was petite and thin, a little over five feet, with a cropped haircut. Her head was turned just so. Gently looking around her body, officers saw nothing obvious to indicate what had happened to this Jane Doe. But could there be a clue somewhere, among her clothes, perhaps in the bags surrounding her body, that could point the officers to the killer? Would the police find the killer in the man who was walking back and forth to his car on Vaquero Drive late the night before? Could the suspect be the person who drove by a home late at night on the same road with a loud muffler, stop near the Safeway, and drive off? Katie Nelson: A Stierlin Road resident noted his daughter had been studying late at night on January 17, hours before the body was discovered in the dumpster, and heard a car peel out in the driveway adjacent to their home. A Hackett Street resident told police he had heard from a mechanic at the Union 76 gas station, just down the road from where the body was discovered, that he had seen two men arguing with a black woman in their car. Any one of these clues could lead to something more. Door by door, police searched for answers. More than a dozen cards were left, requesting help, to call if anyone remembered anything that could possibly help. At least six of the requests went unanswered. [[Interlude]] Almost immediately, officers on scene that morning encountered a complication – the woman had no identification on her. The red, faded stamp on her left hand, typically indicative of a visit to a bar at that time, was of no use – the only local bar at the time that stamped red did not do so the night of the murder, according to the police report. The shoe that dangled from Jane Doe’s foot, while manufactured in Santa Maria, could not be narrowed down to a particular purchase area as the shoes were sold across the United States. The investigative technique of simply tracking purchases via a credit card was still nearly a decade away. Saul Jaeger: The watch that was still fastened on her left wrist had no engraving, no personalization to possibly guide the detectives to a family member or loved one. The ring on her left ring finger too, did nothing to help the mystery. Jane Doe could be anyone, from anywhere. Her family, her friends would have no idea what had happened to her. But this much was certain -- something bad had happened to Jane Doe. Here’s Don McKay, a retired sergeant with the Mountain View Police Department, who back in 1985 was the sergeant in charge of investigations. Don McKay: Um, they discovered this early in the morning. It was still dark when I got the call, about finding a body in the dumpster behind Safeway, just sort of scattered, like she was just dumped there. This Safeway was on the corner of Bailey and Montecito. Well, there were several police cars there. It was very isolated back there. There’s some apartments that back up to that dumpster and there was nobody there so it was just sort of all us. Brought some lights and stuff and tried to work the scene. We didn’t have a lot to go on.It took us a while to ID this person. We could tell she was missing a shoe, we figured maybe we’d find that. From what we remembered, she was fully clothed, but I remember thinking: “Here we are, the week of the Super Bowl, and Super Bowl’s at Stanford. And I’m thinking, ‘I got a hundred thousand extra suspects’ that I wasn’t planning on. It looked like she had been strangled, but we weren’t for sure. We didn’t find that out until we got to the autopsy. Katie Nelson: By 3 p.m. on January 18, 1985, Jane Doe had been brought to the coroner with the hopes that he would have a better idea of who she may be. The coroner on duty that Friday afternoon at Valley Medical Center began his methodical examination. The first sentence of the autopsy reportnnotes just how petite the victim was. The coroner noted she weighed just 95 pounds. She measured only 4 feet, 8 inches tall. On the right side of her forehead, a small cut was noted. A front tooth, chipped. She was otherwise healthy, with the coroner noting most inspections yielded “unremarkable” results. As he went about his work, the coroner clipped fingernails and took other samples from the body, some potentially for use to determine what had led to that fateful discovery that morning behind the Safeway. But neither of those samples would ultimately point to what exactly had led to Jane Doe’s death. No. On just the second page of the report, under the section noted “External Evidence of Injury,” the coroner noted the following: “On the front and ride side of the neck are multiple contusions which vary from ⅛ to ¼ inch in greatest dimension.” “The strap muscles of the neck as well as the other pretracheal soft tissues exhibit a moderate degree of contusion with hemmorhage. The tongue … shows multiple hemorrhages on the anterior third as well as in the middle third.” Jane Doe had been manually strangled to death. This was not a quick death. It was slow. It was hard. Chris Kikuchi: It’s a very violent crime, but to be able to squeeze you know, someone’s neck in that manner and so tightly and so violently that the person dies, there’s a tremendous amount of force. Katie Nelson: We’d like to introduce you to veteran police detective Chris Kikuchi. He served as the primary investigator on this case later on. Chris Kikuchi: At any point, you can realize that person is losing air obviously and that person is struggling and to continue doing that, until the person dies, I can’t even imagine. Even at 100 pounds, you wrap your hands around anyone’s neck, they’re going to struggle. They’re going to do whatever they can to get out of that. It’s not easy. Katie Nelson: That knowledge alone makes this investigation all that much more devastating. It also makes us wonder – was this murder personal? Was this a crime of passion? Or was this an instance where total rage took control and ultimately cost one young woman her life? Was this a targeted incident or, God forbid, was this random, and the start of something far more sinister? Here again is Detective Sergeant Don McKay.Don McKay: The most frustrating part was just ID’ing her, finding out who she was, where she came from, where she lived, so we had a base to start with. We had no place to start the investigation. Normally, when you know the person, you know where they live, you know where they hang out, you know her associates. We had no idea on anything for three weeks. All we could do was collect the evidence, freeze what we could collect. We didn’t have a DNA database at the time. Nothing. Katie Nelson: But even though less than 24 hours had passed since Jane Doe’s body was found, the cause of death was still only half of the puzzle solved. It would take two more weeks before Jane Doe had a name. [[Interlude]] Saul Jaeger: She was Saba Girmai. She had just turned 21. Born in Mekele, Ethiopia in 1964, Saba had immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 17. [[Clip from British broadcast on the famine in Ethiopia]] Saba’s family was part of a growing number of Ethiopians who had come to the United States to seek refuge, many of whom were able to utilize new changes enacted through the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, which was created to help fine-tune immigration procedure for refugees, particularly of humanitarian concern, seeking admission to the United States. Ethiopia, during the time that Saba’s family came to America, was in the throes of upheaval. Before they arrived on US soil, Saba’s family had lived through the overthrow of the government by the Ethiopian army. In 1974, when Saba had just begun her teen years, an interim military government had been put in place to create some kind of control at a government level. But, their efforts were swiftly replaced by a Marxist regime. Katie Nelson: By 1981, a civil war had erupted, and a crippling drought plagued the country. That drought would be the catalyst for what many remember as the famine that sparked the first Live Aid concert in 1985.[[1985 commercial for Live Aid]]The 16-hour musical marathon that catapulted Queen back into the spotlight, the one that was projected to raise about 10 million pounds for famine relief, but in fact raised triple that amount. The funds would be put towards helping the roughly 160 million people impacted by famine across northeastern Africa. In Ethiopia, reports were surfacing that aid groups that came to the country to help couldn’t access certain villages and towns, exacerbating the crisis. Mekele, Saba’s home, was hit especially hard. Saba’s family arrived in the United States just two years before the peak of the conflicts that would plague Ethiopia until the early 1990s. Mekele, during the height of the famine in the mid 1980s, unfortunately became known for its hunger camps that surrounded the city, which housed nearly 100,000 refugees. Estimates today suggest that in 1985, nearly 100 people died in these camps every day, waiting for some kind of reprieve. Saul Jaeger: As her family began to settle down roots in America, Saba was enrolled at Monroe High School in Rochester, New York, a large, brown-bricked building with Greek columns in the picturesque upstate area that had opened its doors to students nearly 60 years before Saba stepped onto campus. But her time there was short. Saba was not involved in any clubs or sports, according to her family, nor did she actually finish high school. She dabbled in cosmetology school for a while after dropping out of high school, but that didn’t hold her interest for long. By the time Saba traveled to California with her sister in 1984, she was ready for something different. She had been in California only seven months when she was killed. Once in California, Saba was known to flit from home to home, between cities like Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and San Jose, couch-surfing with friends or acquaintances, enjoying the local club scene. She had an alleged boyfriend, but she had never been married. Katie Nelson: Where Mountain View fell on her radar was a bit of a mystery. She was not known to neighbors who lived near where her body was found. Saba was known to go out, sometimes to the chagrin of those who knew her. She drank and smoked marijuana, practices that today are not noteworthy, but back in the mid-1980s still carried somewhat of a social taboo. Saba was also not known to stay in one place for long. She was social, described by at least one person as “feisty” and an “Ethiopian princess.” Most notably, though, despite her ease with being out and about, no one had admittedly seen her the day before her death. Saba had essentially vanished. But now, word of Saba’s death had begun to spread, particularly within the Ethiopian community. Recently, we found a copy of the 1985 report of Saba’s death in the police blotter section of a local paper. Wedged at the bottom of the page, between a Super Bowl robbery crime spree and a rape arrest, the local paper highlighted in just eight short sentences the totality of the crime. Headline: Murder victim apparently strangeled. A young woman whose body was discovered last week in a Mountain View dumpster apparently died from strangulation, a spokesman from the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office said Monday. “It was a homicide,” said the spokesman, who declined to be identified. There were some other minor injuries to the body, but nothing of any significance, he said. The results of the autopsy performed late Friday were to be turned over to Mountain View police this week. Police lieutenant Brown Taylor said the woman has yet to be identified. The partially-clad body of the woman, whom police believe was in her late teens or early 20s, was discovered shortly before 8 a.m. Friday by employees of Safeway, 570 Stierlin Road. “Apparently she had been killed and left in the dumpster sometime Thursday night,” Taylor said. Police said the woman was black, weighed about 95 pounds, and was about 5 feet tall. And with the news spreading, friends and acquaintances began to come forward. A friend, we’ll call “Taka,” said Saba had been in San Jose on January 12, when she broke a window of an apartment that belonged to a man she had been staying with at the time. It was the longest period of time detectives knew of Saba’s whereabouts. According to the man at the home, she had been staying with him practically since she had arrived in California the previous June. She’d celebrated her 21st birthday three days before the window episode. Saul Jaeger: Finally, someone who could maybe give a little more insight into who Saba was, where she may have been, and what may have happened to her. Leads like this are important, not just because they offer some semblance of direction with a case, but because when investigations slow, they bring about some hope and some much-needed feeling of movement. We knew little about Saba at the time. And, for those in her community who knew of her, or for those who actually knew her, even they could not pinpoint exact dates or times that they had last seen her within a few days of her death. So, this was something, right? But as was becoming a growing trend with this case, with each hope for a new lead, things quickly fizzled. On January 12, when the police were called to address the broken window at the man’s apartment, we know that they did ultimately escort Saba away. But, from what the boyfriend knew, she was out and about by the next morning. The last time he, and probably anyone else, had heard from her was on January 14, when she called him to let him know she was in Palo Alto. Specifically where, though, he could not say. Katie Nelson: Interviews and gathering witnesses for Saba’s whereabouts could be described as tricky at best. Saba had also been seen maybe in a pickup truck with a white man at some point, but exactly when, the interviewee could not be sure. He was quoted as saying, “The last time he saw Saba she was with an unknown black male; he thinks it was either on January 11 or 12.” Another said: “He knew of Saba, but had only heard her name since she had been killed.”A third person said: “She stayed at the house about one month ago, but he had not seen her since.” One interviewee surmised that it was possible Saba was killed because while she was social, was willing to drink and smoke, she refused to sleep with men. Another interviewee said Saba had been seen with a woman three weeks before, begging for money, but that person didn’t know the woman’s name. Nearly one month after Saba was killed, on February 8, an Ethiopian man came into the police department and told investigators that he had seen Saba maybe on the 14th or 15thof January, three days before she died, in a van with an unknown white man heading northbound on Third Street in San Jose. The reason this was so important, he said, was because he remembered something he did not tell detectives at the time he was initially interviewed – Saba was wearing some type of hat. This pattern of rough guesstimates on when people had seen Saba continued throughout much of the initial investigation, bleeding well into the second month after Saba was killed. By the end of March, 1985, nearly all potential connections to Saba had been interviewed, and there had been hardly any headway in the case. Saul Jaeger: Again, retired Detective Sergeant Don McKay.Don McKay: Well, we started going through the apartments behind the thing to see if someone heard the car because we didn’t know what she was dropped off in, in a car or whatever. And, we got a couple of people who thought they heard something back there around four in the morning, but nothing that could put anything to it. What it affected was trying to locate where we thought she was probably picked up at a party in Palo Alto somewhere, where there were a lot of Super Bowl parties going on and stuff. We had no idea where she came from, but we didn’t realize she was of Ethiopian descent until we talked to her sister. That’s the first time we even had an idea of where she was from, what she was doing, where she lived. And her sister didn’t know where she lived for the last three weeks prior to the murder. And we had no idea where she had been. We went into numerous locations, places we had to try to find out where all the parties were, and nobody knew. No witnesses at all. We never did come up with a witness. We did a lot of footwork. [[interlude]] Saul Jaeger: That ever-lingering question still loomed large -- With the vast network of people who seemingly knew Saba, or knew of her, who would have had a motive to kill her? And even more so, who would have discarded her body in that dumpster at that Safeway? By April 2, detectives decided to use their trump card – they brought in Saba’s alledged boyfriend for a polygraph examination. He was seemingly the last person known to have talked to Saba. Some had identified him as her boyfriend. He disputed that though. There was no question however, that he was close to her. So he must know something, right? Was it possible a fight had gone awry? Was he possibly mad at Saba because of her drinking, and smoking, and moving from place to place? Had Saba done something that caused him to snap?The following is an excerpt from the polygraph examination. Type of Case: MurderRequesting Agency: Mountain View Police DepartmentDate: April 2, 1985 Q: Do you know for sure who caused Saba’s death?A: No. Q: Did you strangle Saba during January 1985?A: No. Q: Were you physically present in the vehicle that took Saba to the dumpster where she was found?A: No. Q: Did you last see Saba on 13 January when you left her in front of that shop in San Jose?A: Yes. Q: Did you see Saba between 14 and 18 January 1985?A: No. Q: Did Saba call you on 14 January and tell you she was in Palo Alto?A: Yes. On April 11, 1985 the results of the polygraph exam were returned to detectives. They read: After analysis of the charts produced during this examination, it is the opinion of this examiner that the boyfriend was deceptive in his answers to the relevant questions. Results: Deception indicated[[End Episode 1]] Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at pippa.io.______________________________________________________________________________________________________________Source material utilized in this podcastResearch sourcing:https://www.weather.gov/ilm/January1985coldhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VH1#Early_history_(1985–1994)https://www.billboard.com/archive/charts/1985/hot-100https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_XIXhttps://www.gcis.co.uk/a-history-of-the-cd-rom.htmlhttps://www.archivesfoundation.org/documents/refugee-act-1980/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Civil_Warhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Civil_Warhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983–1985_famine_in_Ethiopiahttp://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/13/newsid_2502000/2502735.stmhttps://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/politics-famine-ethiopiahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mekellehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MekelleMusic Sourcing:Interlude/interview background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAyFXPDUoPQ – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjoqx7wYbVw – MorningLightMusichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OnJidcj2CU – FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVl9frUzHsE – Over Time by Audionautixhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjh0OGDt58I – AshamaluevMusicInsert Music for Time Period:George Michael – Careless WhisperInsert for News of Time Period: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkLPx8mQ-t0&pbjreload=10 – BBC News Report for Ethiopian famine 1984https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y82B-dWyuAw – Live Aid Concert TV Commercial from 1985
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