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.