SANTA CRUZ — The man who raped a coffee shop employee and locked her in a walk-in refrigerator in a 2008 attack will spend at least 65 years in prison, a Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge ruled Wednesday.
Elvis Lorenzo Garcia, 24, did not react when Judge Timothy Volkmnann sentenced him to seven years, four months, in addition to two separate terms of 25 years to life and a handful of other smaller sentences. He apologized briefly to the court, the victim’s family and to his own family.
“My heart goes out to them,” he said.
Garcia has already served more than two years in Santa Cruz County Jail.
Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Michael Gilman said he was happy with the “very lengthy sentence.”
“I’m comfortable with the sentence,” he said. “It assures that he will serve the rest of his life in prison.”
Garcia’s attorney Jim Reilly said he plans to appeal.
He said that Garcia was heavily involved in drugs and gangs at the time of the rape, and subsequently got out of both and was working “more than full-time” in a stable job when he was arrested.
“He was a contributing member of society,” he said. “It’s a sad thing all the way around.”
The courtroom was full of Garcia’s family members and other supporters, some of whom were crying during the brief hearing. They declined to comment outside court.
Garcia wasn’t linked to the crime until late 2010 when investigators got a “hit” using what’s called familial DNA technology. That evidence would prove crucial to the case.
The victim, who was 23 at the time, was beginning her early-morning shift at the Kind Grind coffee shop in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor on the morning of March 19, 2008 when Garcia entered the shop and assaulted her at knifepoint.
Garcia barricaded the woman inside a large refrigerator and stole money from the business before fleeing. The woman was eventually able to kick her way out and call for help.
Garcia was convicted in July of seven felonies, including sodomy, sexual battery, burglary, robbery and kidnapping. Jurors also found true special allegations that he used a knife in the commission of those crimes.
The crimes rocked the community and prompted numerous public safety meetings to be held in its wake, but DNA evidence collected from the crime scene didn’t match anyone in the state’s database. Investigators asked state criminalists to perform a familial DNA match, a technology based on the scientific concept that DNA from a close relative – a parent, child or sibling – will be a closer match than unrelated individuals. A partial match was made with Elvis Garcia’s father, whose DNA was in the state system because of a felony vehicle conviction. After ruling out the father as a suspect, Santa Cruz police investigators focused their investigation on the son, who was eventually arrested in March 2011 at his home in the Seabright neighborhood of Santa Cruz.
Garcia’s arrest was just the second time in the state that familial DNA technology was used to successfully link a suspect to a crime. The technology wasn’t approved for use in California until 2008.
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