Trial starts in Garcia perjury case

Faces 8 counts of false statements in husband’s murder investigation

Garcia Enlarge photo

Garcia

A jury was selected and opening statements were made Monday in the trial for Suzanne Garcia, a Durango woman suspected of making false statements to a grand jury investigating her husband’s murder.

Garcia, 42, is charged with eight counts of perjury, one count of tampering with a witness and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She faces up to six years in prison on each count.

Prosecutors said Garcia knowingly lied to a grand jury that was investigating the death of her husband, Ted Garcia, in an effort to protect her brother, Joseph Dernoga.

Suzanne Garcia has pleaded not guilty. She is free on $10,000 bail.

Her Durango defense lawyer, Rae Dreves, asked jurors to consider the emotional trauma Suzanne Garcia experienced after her husband’s death – including stress, anxiety, heartbreak and a cascade of other emotions.

“Look for the wife and mother in all of this,” she said. “Put yourself in Suzanne Garcia’s shoes.”

Ted Garcia was shot and killed July 23, 2010, at his home in the 1000 block of County Road 206, west of downtown Durango.

Joseph Dernoga, 39, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison in October for the shooting death.

During the criminal investigation, Suzanne Garcia made several false statements, coached one of her daughters to lie to authorities and tried to mislead investigators on several occasions, said Reid Stewart, deputy district attorney for the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

She also refused to allow investigators to interview her daughters and refused to submit DNA samples to help forensic investigators, Stewart said.

The perjury charges all stem from statements Suzanne Garcia made under oath Oct. 12, 2011, in front of a La Plata County grand jury.

She is accused of lying about whether Dernoga shot certain guns in the past, whether she encouraged anyone to withhold information from investigators, whether concerns existed with Dernoga living in the same house, and whether there was a conflict between Dernoga and Ted Garcia, among others.

The trial, which is being overseen by District Judge Jeffrey Wilson, is expected to last four days.

Eight men and five women are serving on the jury, including one alternate.

shane@durangoherald.com