Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
In 2015, an Albuquerque woman filed for a restraining order against Michael Garcia alleging he beat her, choked her and threatened to kill her and their unborn son.
“I feel society needs to know what this man is capable of,” she wrote in the motion.
Fast forward to Oct. 1, when the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Diana, was found dead inside the mobile home Garcia shares with his mother and his other three children. The child’s body was covered in bruises and burns.
Garcia has been charged in her death.
Court records and police reports detail the six years between that first restraining order and Diana’s death. They describe a lengthy custody battle and turbulent relationship between the couple, Garcia’s arrests for domestic violence, several welfare checks on the couple’s children and the mother’s noncompliance with court orders, one reason Garcia had full custody of the children at the time of Diana’s death.
Albuquerque police were dispatched to Garcia and his mother’s home after paramedics were unable to revive Diana and noticed the injuries. Garcia and his mother told police that Diana had fallen in the tub and had been burned by a hot pan.
One of the other children told police Garcia and his mother beat them with belts.
Garcia, 32, is behind bars and facing a charge of child abuse in the Oct. 1 death of Diana McGrory. The couple’s other three children were taken into the custody of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department after Garcia’s arrest.
Garcia’s attorney could not be reached and relatives declined to comment. And the Journal was unable to reach the children’s mother for comment.
It is unclear in court documents when Garcia actually took custody of the children.
According to court documents and police reports:
Garcia was first arrested for domestic violence on Oct. 30, 2015, after the children’s mother – eight months pregnant with their first son – told police he slammed her head into a wall and choked her.
Police found her with a black eye, cuts to her lip, a bruised arm and neck pain. Garcia told police she pushed him and he pushed her back into the wall.
She filed a petition for an order of protection the following month, saying Garcia also threatened to kill her if she “took his child away” and there had been unreported instances of abuse before. She said in the motion, which was granted, that Garcia had a “bad temper” and was possibly using methamphetamine.
Garcia pleaded no contest to assault and disorderly conduct in the case and was sentenced to probation, which he violated repeatedly, and was arrested in another domestic violence case involving the woman in April 2017.
By that time, the couple had twin boys.
Although police reports were not available in another case, court records show the children’s mother accused Garcia of physically abusing her over several days and not letting her leave their apartment.
The case was dismissed by prosecutors within months of the incident, and Garcia petitioned for joint custody of the couple’s three boys.
A time-sharing agreement was reached by January 2018 that stipulated Garcia pay child support and have visitation rights.
In the years that followed, Diana was born and the couple went back and forth trading barbs and filing motions, with the mother accusing Garcia of harassment and him accusing her of withholding the children.
In March 2019, Garcia called police three times to report that he had not seen his children for a month and that their mother’s behavior had grown bizarre.
The mother, who, police said, appeared “very shaken up and paranoid,” told officers she was having issues with a man “posing” as the father of her children. She said the man was calling her and showing up to her home and leaving notes.
In May 2019, the mother filed another order of protection against Garcia, accusing him of stalking her and trying to take her children.
“This man is claiming to be my children’s father,” she wrote. “… It’s starting to affect my babies, my life, my emotions. He has been asked to stop over and over. I need help.”
Garcia filed a motion accusing her of not answering his calls and leaving town with his children. Garcia requested full custody and wrote that he was “extremely worried” for his children and made a CYFD report. He also asked that she get a mental evaluation and be drug tested.
A judge awarded Garcia full custody of the children in September 2019 and issued a bench warrant for the mother after finding she violated the conditions set in the order of protection, including possibly fleeing the state and hiding the children.
The bench warrant was canceled and the order of protection expired by the time Garcia called police to say he found the mother at a Motel 6 in Albuquerque in April 2020. She told police Garcia was not the children’s father and was stalking her. Garcia told police he found her at the motel through social media and had rented a room near hers with a window overlooking her vehicle.
The officer did not feel comfortable taking the children from their mother due to there being no active arrest warrant, no verified proof of parenthood and finding previous allegations against Garcia. The officer said all four children appeared “fine and healthy,” according to the report.
The next month, the mother was issued a criminal summons after scratching Garcia’s face during a dispute at the mobile home he lived in with his mother. Garcia told police he and his mother recently invited the children’s mother to stay with them as she was homeless and he was still working to get custody.
In April 2021, the children’s mother called police to report that Garcia had not returned one of the sons to her, but she could provide no proof she had full custody. She called police again in June for a welfare check on the son, claiming she had not seen him in months.
Garcia allowed officers inside the mobile home and police said there was plenty of food, electricity and running water.
Police told the children’s mother that the son was OK and she replied that she “just wanted to know that he was OK” and was working to get full custody.
“I observed (the son) sitting on the couch eating a Popsicle. (He) told me that he had just finished eating dinner. The house is safe for a child to be living,” the officer wrote.