HOUSTON (KIAH) — A man who fled the country in 2018 after killing a man he mistook for a thief was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg made the announcement Saturday, saying 35-year-old Oscar Aristides Garcia was sentenced Wednesday. Garcia pleaded guilty to murder in October and agreed to his sentencing by visiting Judge Marc Brown.
Court records show Garcia was in his Pasadena transmission shop on Oct. 28, 2018, when he saw the victim, Nicolas Bautista, 37, walk by with his girlfriend. At the time, Garcia mistakenly believed Bautista was someone stealing pickup tailgates from the shop.
There is no evidence that Bautista has ever been involved in theft.
Nevertheless, Garcia took the truck he was working on and a shotgun to confront Bautista about the thefts. He followed the couple around town for hours before they Ubered back to their Pasadena home on Wafer Street.
There, Garcia confronted Bautista and started arguing with him in Spanish. Bautista did not speak Spanish, and his girlfriend told Garcia he was mistaken.
When Bautista proceeded to turn around and walk away to call the police, Garcia shot and killed him. He then pointed the gun at Bautista’s girlfriend and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire.
Garcia then picked up the shell casing before fleeing to another mechanic’s shop and demanding to store the truck inside their garage. He then returned to his own shop and destroyed his security camera’s recording of Bautista and his girlfriend walking by the shop.
He also broke into a neighborhood taquería and destroyed the security footage showing him stalking Bautista and his girlfriend.
Not long after, Garcia closed his shop and left for his native country of El Salvador, but left his pregnant wife and three children. He later sent for them, and they joined him there for some time.
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More than two years later, Garcia returned to the U.S. and was arrested by U.S. marshals.
Assistant District Attorney Ryan Volkmer prosecuted the case. He credited the Pasadena Police Department for never giving up.
“Pasadena PD worked really hard tracking this guy down, then tracking him overseas,” Volkmer said. “They interviewed a lot of people, they did a lot of surveillance, and they just kept at it.”
Volkmer said listening to Bautista’s friends and family testify about losing him was heartbreaking.
“He was a loved son, a loved brother, and a loved boyfriend,” Volkmer said. “He worked hard and is remembered very fondly, and they’re glad they finally got justice.”
“A man who intentionally kills an innocent stranger and then does everything he can to cover up his crime and run from accountability deserves to spend decades in prison for the pain he caused,” Ogg said.