Crisis In The Family Courts

Family say courts shut down restraining orders

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 17, 2010

By Stacy Moore

Hi-Desert Star

http://www.hidesertstar.com/articles/2010/02/05/news/doc4b69381ed5e05699313614.txt

TWIN PEAKS — Sunday’s murder-suicide was the culmination of months of threats and online and text rants from Stephen Garcia to Katie Tagle of Yucca Valley and her family.

The mother of a 9-month-old boy, Wyatt, with Garcia, Tagle was never able to secure a restraining order against him for herself or an order for supervised visitations for their son.

“This was preventable. This didn’t have to happen,” Tagle’s mother, Maria Brown said the day after Wyatt’s death.

“The system failed Wyatt. It cost him his life.”

Her family said Garcia abused Tagle throughout their two-year relationship, which ended in August 2009, when, her family said, he punched her in the face, knocking her unconscious.

Tagle brought Wyatt back to her family house in Yucca Valley, but frequently took him to visit Garcia’s parents in Piñon Hills.

Garcia, her family said, did not seem especially interested in Tagle or their son until December 2009, when he discovered she was involved with another man.

“That’s when he wigged out,” Tagle’s sister Andrea Rodriguez of Hesperia said.

In letters on a Web site he set up to chronicle his communications to her and her friends, Garcia cursed at Tagle and told her to return to him.

During one custody exchange with Wyatt, he proposed to her, then knocked her to the ground.

Judge denies first restraining order

On Dec. 15, Tagle asked for an emergency restraining order against Garcia, telling Judge Debra Harris in a Joshua Tree courtroom that Garcia had threatened Wyatt.

“He had sent me text messages before that if his son was around certain people … that he would kill him,” Tagle told the judge, according to transcripts of the hearing.

“And that if I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, he’d find me and kill me.”

“What about the threat to shoot you, where did that occur, to hunt you down and shoot you with a gun?” the judge asked.

“That was in a text message, Tagle replied.

When Harris asked for copies of the text messages, Tagle said she had no way of printing them out and her phone was shut off.

The judge denied the emergency order and set a hearing.

Garcia ‘doesn’t pose a threat’

At that hearing, on Jan. 12, Tagle went before Judge David Mazurek in the Joshua Tree courthouse to show cause for a restraining order.

“…On Dec. 31, we were doing our exchange, and he proposed to me, and I said no. He got angry and stole my phone and pushed me down. I made a police report about that,” Tagle told the judge, according to a transcript.

Garcia told the judge the report was “falsely made up.”

Mazurek denied Tagle the restraining order.

“If I grant the restraining order, how do you think that’s going to help with respect to you two being able to raise Wyatt together or work together to make sure Wyatt grows up happy and healthy?” the judge asked, according to the transcripts.

“He would have both of us still,” Tagle responded.

Asked about an e-mail in which he confessed to hitting Tagle, Garcia told the judge he had slapped her during a fight, but it was Tagle’s fault for “pushing and pushing and pushing until she could get something from me.”

Tagle pointed out she was nine months pregnant when Garcia hit her.

“I kind of get an idea of what’s going on,” Mazurek said.

He denied the restraining order, saying, “I don’t think that Mr. Garcia poses a threat to Ms. Tagle.”

Mazurek went on to suggest Tagle might have ulterior motives for alleging domestic violence.

“I get concerned when there’s a pending child custody and visitation issue and in between that, one party or the other claims that there’s some violence in between. It raises the court’s eyebrows because based on my experience, it’s a way for one party to try to gain an advantage over the other,” he said, according to the transcripts.

Story predicts

real-life ending

The day after the hearing in Mazurek’s courtroom, Garcia sent a text message telling Tagle to check her e-mail. In it was an anonymous message containing a story called “Necessary Evil.”

The story describes in detail Tagle’s and Garcia’s relationship, from their fights over his video-game addiction, to their breakup, to her new relationship and his failed proposal.

In the end, the story has two endings. In “Happy Ending,” the female character returns to the man.

In “Tragic Ending,” the character takes his son to a lake, puts him to sleep with Benadryl and the baby dies. “He will have a better life with you then (sic) we can give him here,” the man tells God before taking his own life.

Tagle called 9-1-1 after reading the story, and the responding deputy immediately went to the courthouse and obtained an emergency restraining order for her, signed by Mazurek.

However, in Victorville court Jan. 14, Judge Robert Lemkau would not uphold the restraining order and ordered Tagle to immediately give Wyatt to Garcia, as it was the day his scheduled visitation was to begin.

Transcripts from that hearing are not yet available, but family and friends who were in the court that day with Tagle said the judge appeared not to have read the evidence she presented, including the “Necessary Evil” story and the emergency restraining order obtained by a sheriff’s deputy.

“Just from the very beginning, he didn’t want to listen,” said Rick Tagle, who was in the courtroom. “He started out by saying, ‘One of you is lying and I think it’s you,’ and pointing at Katie.”

The judge also allegedly warned Tagle there would be consequences for lying.

Lemkau did not respond to an e-mail request for comment; the county does not provide judges’ office telephone numbers.

The following Sunday, when Garcia missed his arranged custody transfer with Tagle, she had to call a deputy to get Wyatt back from Garcia’s house.

Friends say discouraged and frightened by her last appearance in court, she did not seek another restraining order or custody change.

“She was afraid she would go before the judge who called her a liar,” her sister said.

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