Court denies restraining order, man murders son

These kinds of stories leave me completely baffled at the competency of the judicial system. (Warning: Story may be triggering.) Via the Curvature, we find a horrendous case where three judges refused a woman protection from her ex-boyfriend in fear of her and her son Wyatt’s life — not a month later, the man murdered the 9-month old boy before he committed suicide.
In the midst of a custody battle between Katie Tagle and Stephen Garcia, Tagle was trying to get supervised visitation with Garcia. She then requested an emergency restraining order against him after he sent her a text message threatening to kill her and her son. When Tagle didn’t have hard proof of the texts for Judge Debra Harris because her phone was off, the emergency order was denied and a hearing was set. At the hearing, Judge David Mazurek not only denied the restraining order, but completely dismissed the fact that Garcia admitted he had physically attacked her and said they should “work together”:

“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.
“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.

A day after the hearing, Garcia sent Tagle an email with a “story” about their relationship in which there are two endings: one with the woman returning to the man, and the other with the man killing their child. After rushing to Mazurek with the email, he then gave Tagle a restraining order. But alas, a third judge, Judge Robert Lemkau, refused to uphold the order 10 days later and forced Tagle to give Wyatt to Garcia for visitation. Wyatt was killed nearly two weeks later.
Check out the details to see exactly how this all went down. But when it comes down to it, there were three judges, and multiple incidences of violence as well as threats of murder. Just what is there to question? Cara has some great thoughts on this and the larger issue of a system that perpetuates the notion that women simply can’t be trusted.

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27 Comments

  1. CTD
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    How on earth would a piece of paper prevented this?

  2. ktncro
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    “The Judge Said” by Malvina Reynolds
    The judge said “Screw ‘em!
    Boys, you’re only human.
    They brought it on themselves
    By being born a woman.
    Like a mountain’s there to climb
    And food’s there to be eaten,
    Woman’s there to rape,
    To be shoved around and beaten.”
    Chorus:
    The judge took his position,
    The judge he wouldn’t budge,
    So we’ve got out this petition,
    And we’re going to screw the judge.
    Now if you beat a horse or dog
    Or violate a bank,
    Simonson will haul you in
    And throw you in the clink.
    But violate a woman,
    Your equal and your peer,
    The judge will slap you on the wrist
    And lay the blame on her.
    (Chorus)
    To draw a true conclusion
    From what Simonson has said,
    Woman has to live in fear
    And cover up her head.
    She has to dress in purdah
    And lock herself in cages,
    And this kinky judge in Madison
    Is from the Middle Ages.
    The judge took his position,
    The judge he wouldn’t budge,
    So we’ve got out this petition,
    And we’re going to dump the judge.

  3. Kathleen Hagerty
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Yeah a restraining order isn’t enough when you’re dealing with a son of a bitch like Garcia. In all honesty, the Second Amendment exists for a reason.

  4. Brittany-Ann
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    This is horrifying. People wonder how stereotypes can actually harm people, and this is it. The ‘lying, vengeful bitch’ stereotype is used in this situations to ensure that women and children are left vulnerable for exploitation, and with no repercussions for slime like Garcia.
    That poor woman. I can only imagine how she’s feeling right now. I can’t imagine losing my 18 month old nephew to violence like this.

  5. Brittany-Ann
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I agree. This is a dangerous world for women. We need to be armed, and properly trained in those arms, to protect ourselves. Obviously the system fails women. No one would convict a woman defending her child.

  6. Flowers
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Quite easily. If a permanent restraining order had been in effect, instead of the temporary one that lasted just 14 days, then the father would not have been allowed unsupervised visitation and would not have been able to shoot his child and himself. The restraining order wasn’t just to keep him away from his ex-wife, but to also keep him away from the child. He sent an email that made threats against the child.
    Also, I just want to point out that the original judge to deny the TRO did eventually grant it, and then another judge refused to make it permanent.
    When I worked with domestic violence victims trying to get them restraining orders, we used to tell them, “the difference a restraining order makes is that instead of calling the cops when he’s at the front door with a gun, you can call the cops when he calls you and they can arrest him then.” Any contact will trigger an arrest under a restraining order, not just physical contact. Also, when a person has a restraining order against them, especially in California (where this took place), they are not allowed to carry a gun, and they have to surrender it immediately. It does make a difference.

  7. TeenMommy
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    It sounds as the the restraining order could have indeed helped. The impression I got (though it wasn’t made explicit in the article) was the the only reason the guy was able to have access to the baby in order to murder him was because a judge disregarded the restraining order and forced the baby to be given to the dad for visitation. Respected restraining order = no visitation = more difficult to procure access to baby.
    Of course, yes, with someone like that, a restraining order isn’t nearly enough. But being forced to hand the baby straight to him because of a LACK of a restraining order… that’s horrible. It is horrific.
    Now that I’m done trying to be rational, I’m going to go and try not to vomit. I probably shouldn’t have read this.

  8. CTD
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “I am going to murder my kid and shoot myself, but getting close enough to do it would count as unsupervised visitation, which would violate an order from a judge. Hmm, better put off my murder-suicide plans. Don’t want to violate any laws.”
    Yes, I’m sure this suicidal killer would have observed any and all restrictions placed upon him by a court.

  9. Sandi
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Wait, um, what? The judge forced her to hand over her son to his violent father and leave said son with said father to honor said father’s visitation/custody rights. At what point should she have showed up and shot said father? Unless she could apprehend the father in the act of killing the son (and even then, clearly her word would be suspect), are you really asserting that the same judges who wouldn’t even allow her to keep her son out of his father’s custody in the face of overwhelming evidence of violence would recognize her actions as self-defense/defense of her son?
    This is a pretty contrived excuse to bring in some pro-gun agenda here, where it is not even relevant.

  10. Sandi
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Okay, but he violated the restraining order, she could have called the cops and he would have been arrested (ideally) and thereby kept away from her, at least in the immediate sense. Also, did you miss where the judge ORDERED HER TO GIVE THE SON TO HIS VIOLENT FATHER. Don’t you think that helped?!
    No one is saying that a restraining order is an iron-clad guarantee, but are you seriously asserting that it would not have made any difference? For real?

  11. sarah_steel
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you should re-read before coming back with a snarky comment. It’s VERY clear that the courts put the child in immediate danger after neglecting to take Tagle seriously. The court’s decision led directly to the child’s death.

  12. Brittany-Ann
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    People are very afraid of guns.
    Predators and abusers prey on the weak and unprotected.
    Both of these statements are true, yes? Guns, for law-abiding citizens, are not for shooting people willy-nilly. They’re a deterrent. Would Garcia threatened Tagle repeatedly if she carried? He’d think twice, three, probably even four times before threatening someone with a gun. Most of the time, a criminal seeing that a potential victim is carrying is enough to deter them. If not, most of the rest will go no further once drawn upon. If neither of these deter them, from imminently threatening someone’s life, well. I think you know where I’m going with this. The last two options are only for desperate, no-other-option circumstances.

  13. Kathleen Hagerty
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but when I first read this post, I was horrified.
    But I have to disagree with you that this woman protecting herself wouldn’t have done any good. You can’t convince me that this man was never violent with his wife or child before he committed this vile act. Of course he was… a person doesn’t kill a person, let alone his own baby, out of nowhere. If he had been afraid of her, he might not have done what he did.
    If the system doesn’t take women seriously, they might find that they have to defend themselves, and if you’re up against a maniac like this Garcia fellow, you might need something more threatening than a black belt in Tae Kwan Do.

  14. CaptainFelt
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    At least the judge tried to get them to work together.

  15. Cicada Nymph
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Did you actually read the article or just what was in bold print? You totally missed the entire point which is that abused and threatened women should not be asked to “work with” dangerous threats to their (and their children’s) safety. In this case getting them to “work with each other” resulted in the murder of a child.

  16. South
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    This is a horrible horrible story and the judges have committed very grave errors that have cost this woman and especially her son dearly.
    But your point about the “larger issue of a system that perpetuates the notion that women simply can’t be trusted.” Is missplaced and no less likely to end in tragedy.
    You, and commenters here, seem to support the idea (and I sincerly appologise if I’m missrepresenting you here, it is not deliberate)that if a woman alleges a threat or abuse then the man should loose custody, anything else being to grave a risk to the children.
    In such a situation you believe that to place the child back with the man is to be saying that women can’t be trusted and that even if the balance of evidence does not lie with the woman, are women really so untrustworthy as to risk the life of a child? Why would she lie?
    The problem with this reasoning is that you are saying that men can’t be trusted. Not only can’t they be trusted to tell the truth on court, but they can’t be trusted not to abuse and murder their children. The fact is that neither men nor women (nor intersex people) can be trusted. They can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and they can’t be trusted not to commit abuse on their children. Wickedness coems in all shapes and sizes.
    You might say that at least by allways believeing abuse allegations, in so far as to modify custody in any case, we will prevent the murder of children, but even this is no guarantee. On more than one occasion their have been allegations of abuse that have ended in the complainant murdering the children. On more than one occasion it has emerged that the claimant is the real abuser. You would be enabling these people.
    Furthermore, by always believing allegations you enable a new kind of abuse. If making a false allegation is a sure fire way to sole custody then people will commit this crime, the easier it is the more people will do it. Not all people certainly, just all bad people, but there are ALOT of those in this world.
    I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that this would be bad for children, very very bad.
    That’s the problem with moral panics. You inevitably hurtthe ones your trying to protect.
    All of the above said, this case is a horrible tragedy and I’m not trying to take advantage of it to make a point. I just don’t want anyone else to either.

  17. paperispatient
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m not trying to be a smartass or provoke an argument, but…are you joking?
    (Tone can be hard to convey on the internet, and I’m uncertain if you’re being sarcastic or if that was a genuine comment.)

  18. Swift
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    You know, I do think it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution any time there are allegations of abuse. I understand exactly what you’re saying about not making all men out to be potential abusers, and I never want our justice system to be one of “guilty until proven innocent.” But when there is even the slightest chance that a helpless person might be in danger, you have to protect that person.
    If a man comes into court claiming that a woman has threatened to kill their child, I think it should be taken just as seriously. It’s not about men and women, it’s about not risking the lives of children on the chance that the parent making the allegations “might” be lying. If you grant temporary custody to the parent expressing fear for their child, and it turns out that those fears were unfounded, the worst that can happen–provided the claimant is not abusive, as you mentioned can sometimes happen (sorry, I wrote all this before I read over it again and saw that)–is that the child will be without one parent temporarily until an investigation is completed. If the claimant IS abusive, then that creates an entirely new dynamic with a new set of problems – if, as you suggest, it would be “enabling” to allow them custody, it would be just as “enabling” to allow the other parent custody IF it turns out they’re abusive. At that point we’re just playing with a bunch of “If”s. And IF there are allegations of abuse on both sides and it’s brought to the court’s attention, it becomes their responsibility to find a place for the child until the investigation is complete.
    But if the claims are legitimate and you err on the side of the accused, the worst that can happen is, well – this. It’s a very delicate balance to strike between making sure everyone gets a fair trial and making sure the child remains safe, but the child’s safety should always be the first priority. And this time, it wasn’t. The child’s “future well-being” was given as a reason to force the parents to work together, but somebody should have told these people that “stay together for the kids” is NEVER the solution in an abusive or potentially abusive relationship.
    In this case, there was a mountain of evidence to prove that Wyatt was in grave danger, and his mother was STILL treated as if she was the one who couldn’t be trusted. The greatest miscarriage of justice seems to be on the part of the third judge, who was unbelievably negligent in his job and appears to have been determined to treat the mother like a liar to begin with. This passage from the Hi-Desert Star made me ill:
    “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.”

    In this situation, the tragedy DID arise from the fact that an arrogant person in a position of power decided that this woman–despite so much evidence to the contrary–was not to be trusted. How on earth he came to that conclusion is anybody’s guess, but the language from both him and the previous judge indicate that they hold a certain set of beliefs about domestic violence allegations. Specifically, that they are often fabricated to give the accuser some kind of “advantage” over the accused. Given that the majority of domestic violence allegations in these cases are made by women against men, these judges basically said that they feel women can’t be trusted. They went into their rulings saying right up front that they’ve decided allegations of violence and threats in a relationship shouldn’t always be taken seriously. And that alone should be enough to cost them their jobs. The fact that a 9-month-old baby is dead because of this reckless arrogance should remove all doubt.

  19. linecaro.wordpress.com
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t mean to come of as crass, but am truthfully troubled by your post. If you read through the article, the father physically assaulted the mother more than once before she brought the text message to the judge and asked for the emergency restraining order. This was not the first time it happend. This is not an issue of an allegation because physical abuse was actually happening (you know, the kind where you have to go the hospital and they take pictures). *And the judge still denied it.*
    I understand the issue, I’m helping a male friend make sure he gets equal custody in a potential soon divorce. Yes, people say twisted things to get what they want, and that has to be factored in, BUT not as a priority over life. This was an ongoing battle, and not a simple allegation. A Battle for her life, and a battle in court.
    You are seeing an issue that is not the issue here. Please be aware of that.

  20. lucierohan
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    “On more than one occasion their have been allegations of abuse that have ended in the complainant murdering the children. On more than one occasion it has emerged that the claimant is the real abuser.”
    Could you give some examples of this please? How often would you say it happens? Statements like this one are vague without any evidence to back them up (I’m not saying there isn’t any evidence, just that you haven’t provided any).
    I actually think I understand the point you’re trying to make on the whole. “Trust women”, in one sense, is a little too rosy/simplistic for the courtroom. Both parties should be subject to whatever evidence is available.
    Often, women who are charging a man with rape or domestic violence get caught up in a situation where the rule of law fails for not necessarily sexist reasons, just because rape and domestic violence are very hard to prove unless the abuser leaves visible marks or confesses.
    But then you have situations like the one in this article. This case is a perfect example of where systemic sexism comes into play. A judge, who was presented PLENTY of solid evidence for the claim that Garcia was abusive (ex: he ADMITTED that he hit the woman) decides not to give the restraining order. And why? Because he think he knows what’s best for this woman and her child. Because he thinks the problem is that SHE hasn’t made enough of an effort to “work it out” with her abusive partner. And because he would rather rely to his own preconceived notions of what women do in custody battles than open his fucking eyes and see that that just isn’t the case this time. So in that sense, saying that the issue is an unwillingness to trust women is perfectly valid. The problem isn’t that people don’t trust us when we don’t have evidence. The problem is that people don’t trust us when we DO have evidence.

  21. CTD
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Yes, I am seriously asserting that some piece of paper signed by a judge would not have made the slightest difference to a suicidal, baby-murdering monster. Are you seriously asserting that it would have? HOW? I suppose it might have forced him to come to Tagle’s house to murder the child. Do you honestly believe that this would have been some sort of serious roadblock to a deranged child killer?
    Oh, I guess she could have called the cops. For all the good that it would have done. Most likely the baby and her would have been dead by the time they arrived.

  22. katicabogar
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    i just hope, that all three judges will feel the baby’s blood on their hand each night in their dreams until the end of their lives.

  23. South
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m replying to lucierohan, but this is also a general reply to Swift and linecaro.
    My comment is not so much about this case as it is about the reactions I see (and predict) people having to this case. I could respond to your posts point by point, but I do not think that would be appropriate given the situation.
    My main disagreement is that in general a change in standards of evidence would shift us away from justice, while you feel it would shift us towards justice. In this instance however I see gross negligence on the part of the judge(s)”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.” As opposed to systematic discrimination.
    Lucierohan, the most recent example I have, though not an exact fit is this case.
    http://news.mibba.com/World/3250/Grandmother-Kills-Young-Grandchildren-Daughter-And-Herself
    Then there’s this
    http://www.canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Globe_and_Mail_Some_mothers_have_had_enough_hugs_06OCT06.aspx
    and this
    http://badbreeders.net/2006/10/19/maniac-mom-kills-daughters-to-spite-husband/
    Additionally, while I don’t have any supporting evidence, there has been much talk recently of abusers making false accusations of Parental alienation against their exes as acceptance of PA has risen.
    Feel free to reply and rebut me, I hope you do. But I don’t think I’ll be posting in this thread anymore, I don’t want to be responsible for an argument in this situation.

  24. Brianna G
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I 100% agree that a woman’s (or man’s) word alone, with no evidence, shouldn’t be used to determine abuse if custody is up for grabs. There’s too much risk of false allegations in such an emotionally charged situation, and while it should warrant serious investigation, it should not automatically mean guilt or loss of custody.
    But that’s not the situation here at all. This could not have been mistaken for a custody dispute. This woman had a history of injuries and hospital visits showing clear signs of domestic violence. She had an email sent by him clearly stating his intention to kill their child if she did not come back to him– he made a death threat on his own son. And most damning of all, this man ADMITTED to the court that he had previously beat his wife, because she verbally provoked him– ie, not in the course of a fight where she hit him as well, but because he was retaliating against something she said.
    So a judge looks at a woman with a history of medical visits for domestic violence, and a man who admits to abusing his wife in the past, and a death threat from the man against the child (a sign that, at least, he is too mentally imbalanced to care for a child without supervision) and he accuses the woman of lying, sides with the man, and gives the man the child he made DEATH THREATS against. And to add insult to injury, he suggests that she should try to work things out.
    This isn’t a case of “trust women,” this is a case of “do not assume a man is automatically in the right because you hate women.” Seriously, I cannot think of any reason why a judge would give a child to a man who clearly threatened to kill that child except that he had some emotional or personal entanglement in the case, like he himself had had a bad custody agreement in the past. It’s nonsensical.

  25. makomk
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    It looks like there was a particularly nasty demonstration of this a couple of months ago. The mother of two kids accused their father of abusing them – a claim that appears to be false, based on court-ordered interviews. Finally, she was ordered to give up custody to his sister – and promptly murdered both the kids and committed a double-suicide together with her mother. Very unpleasant business.

  26. lucierohan
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    “My main disagreement is that in general a change in standards of evidence would shift us away from justice, while you feel it would shift us towards justice.”
    Umm… did you read my comment? I didn’t suggest anything about changing the standards for evidence.
    When I talked about those cases when a real rape/domestic violence victim is lacking evidence (in my third paragraph) I wasn’t saying, “and therefore the standards for evidence should be more lenient on women.” I was saying those are cases when the court has (and probably should have) its hands tied. In those cases, it’s not sexist that the judge rules in favor of the rapist. It’s just unfortunate that more evidence wasn’t available due to the nature of the crime (and perhaps, also due to a substandard investigation).
    Now, here’s where I think our real disagreement lies:
    “I see gross negligence on the part of the judge(s)”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.” As opposed to systematic discrimination.”
    The judge didn’t just not see the evidence. The judge saw the evidence. The judge heard Garcia confess to hitting his partner. The judge ignored this evidence and he made his reasoning for his decision quite clear. He wants this couple to work together. He wants this woman, who he knows has been abused by her partner, to work it out with him. That is sexist, victim blaming bullshit that abused women (and their children) put up with everyday. They put up with it on a personal level and on a systemic level.
    And why does this amount to systemic, sexist, victim blaming bullshit? Because this time, its not just some random person saying “well why don’t you just leave?” or “why don’t you guys try to work it out?” This time it’s a person endowed with coercive political power making her and her son stay in the situation and saying that if she doesn’t she can be penalized. That’s what makes this a case of systemic oppression.

  27. makomk
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    That’s all well and good, but there’s a rather obvious reason it doesn’t seem to wash. You may have noticed a lack of similar cases in which the father tried to warn the family courts that the mother was a danger to the kids and was ignored.
    That’s not necessarily because fathers are more likely to be believed or because mothers are so much better. On the contrary, they seem to be actively discouraged from coming forward with evidence this insubstantial on the basis that they could lose all access to their kids if they do. (Whether this would actually happen is another matter entirely.) Basically, the only reason the mother of these kids had an expectation of being believed is because she’s female and not male.
    On a vaguely related note, there was actually a nasty double murder of two kids by their mother here in the UK a fortnight or so ago. The father told the police that he thought she was a danger to the kids, but apparently they took the safe option of excluding him from the family home instead on the basis that he was the only one that posed a potential danger. Thereby giving her an unrestricted opportunity to murder them. (Oh, and it wasn’t even her house – apparently she and the kids lived elsewhere, but broke into and moved back into the family home while he was on vacation for some odd reason.)

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