Daniel Garcia, the confessed killer of Saba Girmai, has been sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison, and after nearly three decades, family and friends of the victim have finally learned why the confessed killer strangled the 21-year-old woman.
According to a statement given to police by Garcia, a 53-year-old Fresno man with an extensive rap sheet, it all started after Girmai attempted to take one of his beers while the two were hanging out at his cousin's house in mid-January 1985.
An argument ensued and Girmai scratched Garcia's face. Upset, Garcia decided to leave the house, according to court records. Girmai followed and got into Garcia's car with him. After he ordered Girmai to leave and she refused, Garcia told police, he kicked her in the ribs, grabbed her by the throat and strangled her until she "passed out."
"It was over in a matter of minutes," Garcia said in his confession. "I just remember strangling her."
In his confession, Garcia told authorities he had only known Girmai for about a week. According to a Mountain View Police Department press release, Girmai had no permanent residence at the time of the murder, but was bouncing around Santa Clara County.
Girmai's body was found on January 18, 1985, in a large trash bin behind the Bailey Park Plaza shopping center at 570 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View.
The case stayed cold for more than two decades, but regained momentum when the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Crime Laboratory developed a DNA profile from Girmai's fingernails, according to a police department press release.
In 2010, that DNA profile was linked to Garcia, who has been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his adult life. Court documents show he was first arrested in 1979 for tampering with a vehicle and picked up for various other offenses, including one felony and nine misdemeanor offenses, in the years to follow, up until 2001. The documents also note he had a history of substance abuse and that he used the powerful drug PCP for a number of years.
In 2011, investigators from the DA's office and Mountain View police began seriously looking into the case. Working with the Fresno County Probation Department, investigators called Garcia in for extensive interviews.
According to court documents, Garcia "admitted knowing the victim through a family member, but initially denied involvement in her death." He later confessed to the murder.