Crime

Pasco teen believed shot, body dumped

When Marnicus Lockhard accidentally shot his girlfriend last June, he ignored her injuries and let the 19-year-old die, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The next day, he told Tiairra Jo Garcia's concerned mother that he'd dropped the teen off the night before after the two had a fight. Instead, police say, Lockhard drove her body to Mount Rainier National Park near Enumclaw and dumped it in a remote area of the forest.

The Pasco girl has been presumed dead since her June 22 disappearance.

On Tuesday, Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said it was time to move forward with the case even though police have yet to find Garcia's body.

"Unfortunately, I told the family what I think they expected yesterday, that we believe Tiairra Garcia is no longer alive," Lowe said during a news conference in the Franklin County Courthouse.

Lockhard, 30, was charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree manslaughter and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

"At this point we believe Mr. Lockhard is solely responsible. His statements are self-serving," said Lowe, referring to conversations Lockhard had with Donna Garcia in the weeks after her daughter's disappearance.

Lockhard has not talked to police or prosecutors, but he reportedly told Donna Garcia the teen's death "was an accident for which (his buddy Ashone) Hollinquest was responsible," court documents said.

Hollinquest has not been charged in the death, though Lowe said there is always the possibility of adding charges.

Lockhard remains charged in Franklin County District Court with first-degree kidnapping, along with Hollinquest, Andrea Parr and Verla Spencer. Hearings in that case are scheduled next month.

Lowe said this is his first time prosecuting a "no-body homicide case."

This type of case is unique because prosecutors must prove the person is dead and how they died, he said.

"We believe her absence over this period of time will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tiairra is no longer alive," Lowe said. "That is a difficult thing to do in a homicide case, but it's not unheard of."

Pasco detectives, with assistance from multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies across the state, have made every effort to find Tiairra Garcia, Lowe said.

"That's what we really wanted to do for the family. I wanted to be here to say that we found her, and I'm sorry that we can't do that," he said. "The fact that they don't have their daughter's remains to bring some closure is very, very important for the family. It would be very important for me as a father."

Attempts by the Herald to reach Garcia's family Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Lowe said the "one thing left undone" is to find the teen.

"We are not giving up the search. The Pasco Police Department is not giving up," he added.

Investigators have used cadaver dogs to comb the woods in the northeast quadrant of the national park at least three times. The Sunrise and White River areas and southbound Highway 123 are accessed by Highway 410 from Enumclaw, according to the park's website.

Pasco police Capt. Jim Raymond on Tuesday would not give the specific location of where they have been looking, but court documents state the Enumclaw Police Department "confirmed seeing" on June 23 a rental car Lockhard was believed driving when he "secreted" Garcia's body.

More than 12 feet of snow has fallen in the area, which is described as being vast and rugged.

"We have to wait for (the snow) to melt before we can go attempt to look again," Raymond said. "We've been given estimates that it could be as late as late May this year because of the deepness of snow."

Garcia was last seen June 22 when she left her home in a Plymouth Voyager van with Lockhard and Hollinquest.

Her mother became concerned when she didn't come home and failed to show up for work the next morning or pick up a paycheck.

Donna Garcia called Lockhard, who reportedly told her they had gotten into a fight Sunday night and the girl got out of the van near the Les Schwab tire center on Court Street and started walking. Donna Garcia went to the Pasco police Monday, then followed up a couple days later.

According to court documents, this is what happened:

Tiairra Garcia, Lockhard and Hollinquest went to Joey's restaurant on West Court Street on June 22, but Garcia ended up waiting in the van because she was not allowed in the bar.

"While in the bar, Lockhard carried a pistol for his personal protection," documents said. The men stayed until Lockhard was kicked out of the bar at 10:40 p.m.

Witnesses told investigators Garcia then drove the group to a West Lewis Street bar. Lockhard was in the front passenger seat and Hollinquest was directly behind Garcia.

As Garcia parked the van, "Lockhard moved to acquire the pistol that had been placed on the rear floorboard of the van ...," court documents said. "Lockhard grabbed the gun, and the weapon discharged one round. Tiairra Garcia was struck by the bullet from the weapon, and wounded."

"(Lockhard) put the van into gear, drove away from the bar and refused to take the obviously seriously wounded Tiairra Garcia to the hospital," the documents continued.

At 11:22 p.m., the van was involved in a hit-and-run collision on Bonneville Street. The badly damaged van then was driven into the front yard of Spencer's Parkview Boulevard home.

The driver knocked loudly on the front door asking for help, and Spencer eventually came out of the house.

Police arrived shortly after what appeared to be a body was carried into the house, but Spencer said she had no knowledge of the van or who had been driving it, court documents said.

Between 6 and 7 a.m. June 23, Lockhard and Hollinquest went to Ronald Kinsey's home asking him to rent a car for them, documents said. He refused and the men left behind the van, several blankets and a rug stained with what appeared to be blood.

The blood matches Garcia's DNA profile, documents said.

Police also found Duck brand tape wrapped around the blankets and rug, and learned Spencer bought the tape at 3:18 a.m. June 23.

Parr, who owned the Plymouth van, reportedly told police Hollinquest had borrowed it June 22 and she hadn't seen him again until he arrived at her hotel the next morning with Lockhard.

They told her they had been in a crash and told her to report the van as stolen, which she did later that day, court documents said. She then rented a 2009 silver Toyota Corolla so the men could skip town.

The car was found abandoned and burned July 2 outside Chicago. A rag had been stuffed in the gas tank.

Lockhard, Hollinquest and Parr were all arrested in late July after a nationwide manhunt. Hollinquest and Parr were found in Chandler, Ariz., and Lockhard was picked up in Milwaukee.

Hollinquest has since pleaded guilty in Benton County to stealing the rental car.

Lockhard has been in federal custody in Yakima on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a gun in an unrelated case. He was sentenced earlier this month to nearly seven years in federal prison.

Lowe said he will be asking a Superior Court judge to order Lockhard's immediate transfer to the Franklin County jail so he can proceed with the manslaughter case.

"I expect it to happen shortly," he said.

w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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