Former athlete put away for life

Barbara Harvey and Barbara Harvey

A former American River College baseball player was sentenced to life in prison without parole last month for a residential robbery and murder he and and three accomplices committed in 2009, the same year he was on the ARC baseball team.

Elias Garcia, 27, was arrested in 2010 for the murder of Oak Park resident Donald Kirby, 47, who police believe Garcia shot in his apartment at the 3300 block of V Street, following an attempt to rob him of his marijuana.

Detectives believe Garcia, 23 at the time of the murder, arrived at Kirby’s apartment intending to rob him.

Garcia knew the victim, and believed him to be “an easy target,” according to court documents.

Garcia, along with three accomplices, went to Kirby’s home with the intention to rob him, according to police. Kirby answered his front door for Garcia, then attempted to shut it once he saw that Garcia was holding a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

Garcia then shot Kirby in the face.

Garcia was accompanied by then 22-year-old Christopher Merrill, 24-year-old Roman Hooker and 21-year-old Calvin Holmes Jr. Hooker, now 27, also received a sentence of life in prison without parole.

According to a press release from the Sacramento Police Department, Garcia, Hooker and Holmes were arrested in separate locations on Nov. 11, 2010, exactly one year and two days after the murder took place. Merrill was already in custody for a parole violation.

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, trial briefs state that following a December 2009 search of his apartment, where police found the same kind of ammunition used in the murder of Kirby, Garcia attempted to flee to Oklahoma, but was arrested at a Greyhound station in Los Angeles.

Garcia was taken back to Sacramento and charged with being an ex-con in possession of ammunition. He pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Garcia was released in August 2010, three months before being charged with Kirby’s murder.

According to the press release, “All suspects were taken into custody without incident and charged with murder, attempt robbery, and burglary.”

Merrill and Holmes took deals to avoid being sentenced to life in prison. Merrill pleaded no contest to manslaughter and second-degree attempted robbery, and Holmes pleaded no contest to attempted robbery.

The ARC baseball team roster lists Garcia as active on the team in 2009, the same year he committed the murder. Garcia was listed as an outfielder, but was used largely as a designated hitter.

Garcia led the team in RBI’s, or runs batted in, but hit a .263 average, the fourth lowest on the team.

ARC administrators confirmed to the Current that Elias Garcia attended American River College in fall 2007, fall 2008, and spring 2009, when he played intercollegiate baseball, and that Garcia did not declare a major or receive a degree or certificate.

Beyond confirming his attendance, administrators declined to comment, citing FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) restrictions.

Doug Jumelet, the head coach of the ARC baseball team, was Garcia’s coach in 2009. When asked about Garcia, Jumelet declined to comment in an email to the Current, responding simply “Nope!”