Details of Disappearance
Garcia was last seen in Ontario, California on November 23, 1996. He is an immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico and had been employed at a rice noodle factory, Rama Foods, for the past two years.
The factory utilized undocumented immigrants and employed them at low wages in substandard conditions. Authorities believe Garcia was murdered by the factory owner, Woravit "Kim" Mektrakarn. A photo of Mektrakarn is posted with this case summary.
Many employees at the factory worked twelve-hour days, six days a week for a total of 72 hours, but they were not paid the overtime wages entitled to them by law. Garcia threatened to report Mektrakarn to the state labor commission unless Mektrakarn paid him $5,000.
Mektrakarn agreed to pay him $1,000 up front and the rest of the money in installments, on the condition that Garcia tell no one else about the arrangement. Garcia agreed, but afterwards one of his coworkers found out and also demanded money.
Garcia planned to collect $3,000 from Mektrakarn on the day of his disappearance, and was last seen at the factory asking for the money. Two of his cousins, Francisco and Rene Delgado, both of whom worked in the factory, knew Garcia planned to meet Mektrakarn and get his money that day.
On the morning of November 23, Francisco drove Mektrakarn to the Ontario International Airport to rent a Plymouth Voyager minivan. According to Francisco, Mektrakarn drove the minivan to the factory at 5:00 p.m. Rene said he saw Mektrakarn at the factory by 3:00 p.m. and Mektrakarn's usual car, a Honda Passport, was in the parking lot at the time. At 4:00 p.m., Mektrakarn told Rene he expected Garcia to arrive.
Rene acted as a translator and liaison between Mektrakarn and the workers. He was summoned to the factory's north office at 5:00 p.m. to translate. Rene stated that Garcia, Mektrakarn, Kim's wife, Kim's sister, and Chansak "Buck" Plengsangtip, who was Mektrakarn's friend and the factory's manager, were all in the office. Mektrakarn and his wife told Delgado they would pay Garcia what he asked.
Mektrakarn's wife then asked Rene to go clean the back of the plant, and she left the office with him. Rene found her request strange because cleaning was not one of his usual duties. He wanted to go back to the office, but Mektrakarn's wife wouldn't let him.
He didn't complete the cleaning and instead left the factory at 5:30 p.m. As he drove by, he looked in the north office window and saw three men, two of whom appeared to be hiding or crouching. Garcia's, Mektrakarn's and Plengsangtip's cars were in the parking lot, but Mektrakarn's rented van was gone.
One of Francisco's duties was to move everyone's cars inside the factory at the end of the day. He tried to go to the office area for the car keys between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m., but Mektrakarn's wife wouldn't let him inside. This was the first time Francisco hadn't been allowed to move the cars. He left the premises at 7:00 p.m. Another employee usually counted the sales route money inside the office, but he was also prevented from entering the office that day.
Garcia had plans go out to dinner with a cousin afterwards, but he never showed up. He had purchased a plane ticket to Veracruz to visit relatives in December, but never used it. He has never been heard from again. His gray Toyota Tercel was found in Los Angeles, California on December 4, with the keys in the ignition and the tank full of gasoline.
Authorities never believed Garcia left of his own accord. He is described as a happy, friendly young man who got along with most people. He moved to the United States in 1993, made friends with local immigrants, and lived with roommates in a house in Ontario. He was looking forward to visiting his parents in Mexico, as he had not seen them in years.
Responding to the concerns of Garcia's friends, the police went to Rama Foods on November 25 and began a homicide investigation into his disappearance. Francisco stated the office carpet was dirty and looked as if liquid had spilled on it, and a triangular piece had been cut out. The carpet hadn't looked that way the last time Francisco saw it, on the morning of November 23.
Mektrakarn was present when the police arrived and he had injuries on his hands. In a nearby dumpster were a plastic bucket with a piece of burned carpet inside, three pieces of burned carpet stuck together, a lighter fluid can with about an inch of fluid inside, a pair of bleach-stained blue jeans with cleaning fluid on them, liquid soap, rubber gloves, scouring pads and a metal pot filled with ashes and wrapped in two plastic bags. Two handguns were located at the scene.
Traces of blood were visible on the carpet in the Rama Foods office, the carpet in the office hallway, and in the sink trap of the office bathroom. Mektrakarn's rented van was reported stolen and was located at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 15. When found it was clean, the license plates were missing and bleach had been poured all over the interior.
Mektrakarn was arrested for Garcia's murder, but he was released after several days when prosecutors decided they had insufficient evidence to convict. He returned to his native Thailand and authorities continued to investigate the case.
In 2003, they developed a DNA profile for Garcia and proved the blood at the factory was his. They also searched the factory again and sprayed the office with fluorescein, a chemical that detects blood traces. Previously invisible blood spatters were discovered on the walls, floor and ceiling of the office, and additional blood was also located in the hallway and bathroom, and on a door.
The blood evidence leads authorities to believe Garcia was standing against the office wall when he was attacked, and afterwards he was dragged down the hallway and assaulted a second time in the bathroom. Based on the new evidence, Mektrakarn was again charged with Garcia's murder. Authorities have obtained an international warrant for his arrest, but he remains at large. He is probably still living in Thailand.
Plengsangtip was charged as an accessory after the fact to Garcia's murder. He had told police he had seen nothing suspicious and had no knowledge of Garcia's disappearance and presumed murder, which contradicts Rene's statement. He also stated he knew Mektrakarn could not have committed the murder, because he was with him for the entire night.
Prosectors believed Plengsangtip was aware that Mektrakarn had murdered Garcia and lied to cover up his friend's crimes. The accessory charge against Plengsantip was dismissed, but reinstated on appeal. He was tried in May 2008 and acquitted.
Garcia's remains have never been found. They may been dumped in the desert in California or Nevada. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.