SANTA FE – By one account, Inez Garcia, 26, and her husband were at a downtown Santa Fe bar on Water Street in November 1952. Garcia “suddenly” jumped out of their car, walked away and was never seen again.
But a newspaper article from 1954, when Garcia had been missing for 15 months, tells a different story – that, after a night of drinking, she was last seen leaving a downtown bar following a stranger who had just appeared.
Santa Fe detectives Robert Garcia Jr. and Abe Maes took another look at this coldest of cold cases recently and last week decided to start digging up the dirt floor of a garage on Oñate Place where Garcia, her now-deceased husband and the children lived in the 1950s.
On Monday, they found a handful of bone fragments, some charred. The officers also “found something that looked like ash in the dirt, and one of the theories is that there was some sort of fire … to maybe have burned some piece of maybe an animal or maybe a body,” police spokeswoman Celina Westervelt said.
The bones were sent to the Office of the Medical Investigator and will now go to a lab in Texas for a forensic examination to see if they are human and to check for DNA. OMI believes the bones could be from a tibia and forearm, but couldn’t say with certainty whether they’re human.
Also, a cadaver dog from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office “hit a couple of different times in different areas” of the garage, Westervelt said.
Police obtained a DNA swab for comparison from one of Garcia’s two surviving daughters, now in her 60s, who lives in northern New Mexico. Her name was not released. “We’ve have kept her up-to-date on how the investigation is going,” Westervelt said. “We don’t want to give her a false sense of hope in any way; we just want to be open and active with that.”
The husband, Juan Andres Jose Garcia, is deceased – he died in the 1990s – and is considered a person of interest in a possible homicide. “There were lots of rumors that he (the husband) buried her in the dirt floor,” Westervelt said at the digging scene Friday. “Nobody was allowed in here when he was alive … so it’s just the mystery of what could be here.”
A Feb. 9, 1954, article in the Santa Fe New Mexican reported a $400 reward offered by Garcia’s father for information on her disappearance.
“The young mother of four children abruptly dropped out of sight early in the morning of Nov. 6, 1952 … and has not been seen since,” the article said.
It relates a night spent by Garcia drinking with a group (not including her husband, who reportedly last saw her at lunchtime). Witnesses said that she had become “very drunk” after visits to two bars and that friends couldn’t get her to leave with them at 11 p.m. But they did go by her house and tell her husband where she was.
About 1 a.m., a stranger went into the second bar, where Garcia remained, went directly up to her and spoke briefly, according to one acquaintance of Garcia’s who had stayed at the bar with her. He saw the man leave, followed by Garcia, but when he went to the door, he couldn’t see anyone.
Westervelt said the alternate story – that Garcia and her husband, then about 40, were at a bar when she jumped from the car and disappeared – came from inquiries police made when they went to the Oñate Place home in 1996. The then-owners had found in the garage two big bones, which turned out to be from a horse and cow. There had been reports of a smell, she said. The home had changed hands when Jose Garcia died.