Debbie Boyd spent an agonizing 15 years wondering where convicted killer Mario Garcia hid the body of her murdered daughter Christie Wilson.
“Was she in an ocean? Was she in a ditch?” asked Boyd. “And for 15 years, I never went to bed without wondering ‘where is she? Where did Mario Garcia put her?'”
“We wanted to find her to show Mario, you’re not going to win, you’re not winning this,” said investigator Don Murchison. “We’re going to find her and bring her home to the family.”
Through sheer will and wit, and the help of two determined investigators, Boyd finally got her answer.
Mario Garcia met Christie Wilson in a casino in 2005. It was the last time the 27-year-old woman was ever seen. Garcia denied having anything to do with Wilson’s disappearance.
“What happened to her, Mario? How could she simply disappear after she was with you?” “48 Hours “correspondent Erin Moriarty asked Garcia in 2006. “I don’t have answers for that,” he replied.
A jury disagreed. Years passed since he was convicted and in 2018, Garcia let Boyd know he wanted to be released early from his 59-year sentence. Boyd considered negotiating with him, but changed her mind.
“This would be such a disgrace,” she said. “He will not use my daughter’s body as a bargaining chip.”
Last summer, investigators working for the district attorney in Placer County, Calif., got a tip from an unlikely source that led them back to Garcia’s former home. There they started digging until something emerged from the ground.
“We found Christie,” says Boyd. “This is a day that we had hoped for. My prayers have been answered. We can now move forward without the torment of the last 15 years.”
THE BIGGEST GAMBLE
Tiffney de Vries: Christie and I were definitely soul sisters for sure …we grew up together in school and just loved pretty much doing everything together.
Tiffney de Vries says best friend Christie Wilson just had a knack for making her laugh.
Tiffney DeVries: I picture her in our front room … just dancing and laughing and having so much fun … I could be having the worst day … And she would always be there for me. … We always knew that no matter what, we were there for each other.
But Tiffney was not with Christie in early morning hours of October 5, 2005. That’s when a surveillance camera in a California casino captured Christie walking into a parking lot with a man she met that night.
Tiffney DeVries: That was really scary because we didn’t know where she was or if she could be alive.
Christie was then only 27 years old. Her mother Debbie Boyd can hardly believe how much time has passed.
Debbie Boyd: You know, I try not to think of it too much because it actually kind of takes me to a very sad place.
Since the moment Christie vanished, Debbie vowed not to rest until she knew what Christie’s killer had done with her body.
Debbie Boyd: I’m her mother forever, and I was not going to give up.
“48 Hours” has been covering the Christie Wilson case for the past 15 years. It began like so many of these stories do: with a concerned boyfriend telling authorities that his girlfriend had gone missing.
Danny Burlando : I loved her, and I know she loved me, and we cared about each other very much.
On the evening of October 4, 2005, Christie’s boyfriend Danny Burlando says she went to the Thunder Valley Casino to play blackjack.
Erin Moriarty: Did it surprise you to hear she had been at a casino that night?
Tiffney de Vries : You know it — it didn’t — because recently she um — she had been telling me she’d been, you know — playing some blackjack.
Back in 2005, Tiffney de Vries was a young newlywed. She’s thought about why Christie left the casino that night with a stranger, and she had a theory.
Tiffney de Vries : Sometimes I think, “Well what if — you know — someone put something in her drink?
Debbie was aware her daughter was gambling, partly because she was between jobs and low on money. Her boyfriend Danny felt Christie was gambling too much.
Erin Moriarty: When’s the last time you actually talked to her?
Danny Burlando : At 10:28 p.m. Tuesday, October 4th. We had a 55 second conversation.
Danny Burlando : I told her to come home and … she was like, “OK, I’m finishing up. I’ll be home soon.”
But when Danny awoke, there was no sign of Christie. He began leaving dozens of desperate messages on Christie’s cell phone:
A quarter after 10 on Wednesday. It’s now been 24 hours since I talked to you last, and I’m worried sick about you … Please call me. If you’re OK, call me. If you’re not OK, call me. Let me know what’s going on.
Danny filed a missing person’s report. Investigator Don Murchison interviewed Burlando back in 2005 and says Danny was very cooperative.
Don Murchison : Anything that I wanted from him when I was at that residence, he allowed me to have.
Murchison says investigators soon found their prime suspect when that casino video surfaced. They were able to track down a 53-year-old man named Mario Garcia by his player’s casino card. Sheriff’s deputies arrested and held him on a weapons charge.
Mario Garcia: Christie Wilson came and sat on my left between me and another individual.
In 2006, Mario Garcia told “48 Hours” what he says happened in the hours before Christie disappeared.
Mario Garcia: We were at that table for a period of time until that table got hot. She asked me, “Hey, you want to go with me to another table?” And I said, “Sure.”
Their night of gambling ended just past 1 a.m. Wednesday, October 5. Garcia claimed that he and Christie walked to his car and then went their separate ways. And he suggested that Christie may have met someone in the parking lot.
Erin Moriarty: Well, wouldn’t that be seen on camera?
Mario Garcia: Well, they don’t see that she got in my car, do they? They don’t see where she went, correct?
Some 3 minutes and 41 seconds later, Garcia’s car reappears on the cameras and it looks as though he’s the only one inside.
George Malim : She hasn’t called any family. Any friends.
Investigations Commander George Malim helped coordinate a massive search for Christie through the rugged and varied terrain of Placer County.
George Malim: We utilized search and rescue people and their vehicles … and they drove every road they could … every driveway, looked in every culvert … and still nothing was found.
Among the searchers was Christie’s heartbroken older sister Stacie.
Stacie Wilson : You wanna hear details, but you don’t. It’s just like you get this image in my head of “god, what she must have been going through.”
The physical searches turned up nothing, but then investigators began looking into Mario Garcia’s past … and what they found was chilling.
Wendy Ward : You don’t cross Mario. You don’t cross him, especially if you’re a woman and you’re alone. You don’t cross him.
Even though Mario Garcia was the last person seen with Christie Wilson, to some he appeared an unlikely murder suspect. He was a project manager for a local hospital, married with two teenage boys.
Mario Garcia: I am, and I have been happily married.
Jean Garcia : Your husband … is your destiny … and with him I have that feeling. I just have that connection.
Garcia’s wife Jean defended him.
Jean Garcia: He is a family man … if he’s not working we will take the kids for sports.
And his son Kris, then 19, said he’s a great dad.
Kris Garcia : … he was always there for us … you know he’d always come home, make sure … we all sit at the table. … we’re just a good family.
The family lived in a house on five beautiful acres in Auburn, California – Gold Country.
Jean Garcia: With Mario, I always feel good about him.
But investigators were not about to take Jean’s word for it. Four days after Christie disappeared, they went to Garcia’s home to question him and ran a criminal background check. And that’s how they found Wendy Ward, a woman from Garcia’s past.
Wendy Ward : When I first met him, I found him to be very intelligent, very articulate, very warm.
Wendy Ward met Garcia in 1978 near Oakland, when she was 26 and he was 27, and they began dating.
Wendy Ward : I would say a very supportive person. It felt like he cared a lot.
But Wendy says he also had a temper, and he reached a boiling point after she ended the relationship. He grabbed her one night and drove off with her in his van.
Wendy Ward : He was holding my neck, or he was holding my head … and he says, `You do anything, you do anything, I will take your head and I will smash it.”
Wendy Ward : I think he said to me, “Take off your clothes” or – -or something like that, and I said, “No.” … I just was clawing, scratching, whatever I could do. … Then he started to choke me. I couldn’t — I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe.
Erin Moriarty: Did you think you were going to die?
Wendy Ward : I did. I really did.
She says he raped her and then took her back to his apartment.
Wendy Ward : … he pulled a gun out of his cabinet … and he held it to my head … and he pulled the trigger. … he says, “well it wasn’t loaded this time,” but basically, “I can come and get you anytime I want.”
Wendy says he raped her again. And then, he casually made himself a sandwich, ate it, and drove her home.
Wendy Ward : I’m surprised that I actually am alive. I — I’m very lucky.
Wendy immediately went to the hospital, and police arrested Garcia. But the court case stalled for two years, before prosecutors offered him a deal.
Wendy Ward : I figured it’s better than nothing and let’s do this and then let’s move on. Garcia agreed to plead guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 18 month’s probation. Believe it or not, Garcia says he’s the one who was railroaded.
Mario Garcia : She made allegations that were not true.
Erin Moriarty: There was a gun involved, wasn’t there?
Mario Garcia: There was no gun involved.
Erin Moriarty: You pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and there was no gun involved? You just offered to plead guilty?
Mario Garcia: I possess guns, I possess guns but there was no — we had a stormy relationship.
Erin Moriarty: When you say stormy relationship, did you hit her?
Mario Garcia: No, I did not.
Wendy never forgot about Garcia, but she moved on … until October 2005, not long after Christie went missing, when she was tracked down by Detective Murchison.
Erin Moriarty: When you heard that Christie Wilson disappeared and the last person to see her alive was Mario Garcia, what was your reaction?
Wendy Ward: I felt sick to my stomach.
Wendy told Murchison what happened with Garcia, and she said there was something else about Garcia they needed to know.
Wendy Ward: I felt, after my own incident with him … that he could very easily do this again with someone else.
It wasn’t long before something terrible involving Mario Garcia happened again.
Tom Davis : My younger sister and I were pals, we were friends. She was a lot of fun to be around. She was very outgoing.
Tom Davis’ sister Lynette dated Mario Garcia after Wendy in 1979. It, too, was a volatile relationship, and Garcia was upset with Lynette because she ended a pregnancy with his child. But the couple still celebrated Christmas with Lynette’s mother. After dinner, the three of them got into Lynette’s car.
John Cave : The streets were dry; the weather was clear.
Retired officer John Cave was the chief accident investigator for the Oakland Police Department. That Christmas night, he got a call that a car had plunged into the water near the Oakland airport.
John Cave: The witnesses said the car pulled over to the right shoulder. They drove by, and the car accelerated. … And there was a ledge, like into the pier, and the car shot off that ledge out into the water … And that’s where it sunk.
Garcia was the only survivor.
Mario Garcia: I panicked and eventually, I took my seat belt and I opened one of the windows … all this rush of water came into the car. I got out and everybody else, I presumed, got out.
He told police Lynette was driving, but they couldn’t confirm who was behind the wheel.
Erin Moriarty: If in fact Mario Garcia was the driver and he intended to kill Lynette and her mother … it’s not a very efficient way to get rid of somebody, is it?
John Cave: It worked didn’t it? … and, if he was the driver, he got away with it.
Cave wanted to question Garcia further, but he got a lawyer the next day.
Erin Moriarty: Why, if it were just a simple accident, would you not talk to the police and would you hire a criminal lawyer?
Mario Garcia: It’s the thing to do. It’s the legal right of every citizen of the United States. And my attorney advised me not to talk to them.
After the accident, a heartbroken Tom reached out to an old friend from his hometown. Incredibly, it was Wendy Ward. As they talked, she asked how his sister was doing.
Tom Davis: I said, “Yeah, she was killed in a car accident, involved with this guy named Mario Garcia.” “Mario Garcia?”
Wendy Ward: It goes beyond disbelief.
Tom Davis: She says, “I used to date him. I was involved with him. I have rape charges against him.”
No charges were ever filed against Garcia for Lynette and her mother’s deaths. But Debbie Boyd had heard all she needed to about Mario Garcia.
Debbie Boyd : You’re not fooling anybody, and especially not me. … And I will continue to pursue you and pursue you and pursue you.
THE CASE AGAINST MARIO GARCIA
After three weeks of searching, Placer County authorities made a tough decision: to charge Mario Garcia with Christie’s murder even though they hadn’t found her body. Her mother Debbie Boyd worried there wasn’t enough evidence.
Debbie Boyd : The thought of him getting off on this case, once again, scares the living daylights out of me for every woman.
Garen Horst : It was a large case to put together.
Garen Horst, the Placer County deputy district attorney at the time, had the unenviable task of prosecuting the county’s first no-body murder trial in September 2006.
Erin Moriarty: So, what do you believe happened to Christie Wilson?
Garen Horst: She went out of the casino with the defendant. … At some point in the vehicle at the casino, he incapacitated her.
Garen Horst: He was probably putting her in the backseat so that when he drove away nobody could see. … As far as what he did … afterwards, that’s anybody’s guess.
Erin Moriarty: Was she in your car?
Mario Garcia : No, she never was inside my car. … At some point in time, she says that she left her cell phone in the casino and we embrace. … And that, that was the end of the conversation.
Investigators did later find Christie’s phone in the casino, but there is no footage of her returning to get it and no footage of Christie getting into Garcia’s car. But Horst says the evidence prove Christie was inside the car.
Garen Horst: One of Christie’s pulled hairs was found in that trunk.
Crime scene investigators also found tiny drops of her blood on the backseat and door.
Mario Garcia: Why is it that the DNA on the door, claimed to be of Christie Wilson, was the only thing that was found? Why is it that the DNA from my sons, my wife and other people that were in the car were not found?
Erin Moriarty: By your own admission, you cleaned the car.
Mario Garcia: I cleaned everybody else’s DNA except Christie Wilson? That’s the only thing they found. So how did it get there?
Erin Moriarty: What’s your reaction when the defense insinuates … that was planted?
Don Murchison : It greatly angers me … They couldn’t defend what was there, so they had to say it was planted.
The prosecution says the evidence that incriminates Garcia is as plain as the scratches on his face and body left by Christie as she fought for her life.
Erin Moriarty: Did you get the scratches … through Christie Wilson?
Mario Garcia: No. Absolutely not.
But the morning after that trip to the casino, several of Garcia’s co-workers say they saw scratches on Garcia’s face, and he visited the eye doctor.
Mario Garcia: Those are injuries that I received through poison oak and falling from a tree.
Yet Robert Royer, an emergency room doctor who sat at the same table as Garcia at the casino, told investigators he could clearly see Garcia’s face that night.
Erin Moriarty: How far is — is Mario Garcia from you?
Robert Royer : Two feet? Less than a meter.
Erin Moriarty: Did he seem to have any injuries on his face?
Robert Royer: I didn’t see any injuries, no … and I’m reasonably good at making those kind of observations ’cause that’s what I do for a living.
Erin Moriarty: Why wouldn’t the emergency room doctor see those?
Mario Garcia: I cannot answer what he saw or didn’t see.
And no one can answer why Christie left the casino with Garcia. Those who knew her had wondered if he put something in her drink. And the prosecution presents evidence to support that theory.
A week after Christie disappeared, Garcia searched online for information about how authorities test for date rape drugs. But when Garcia takes the stand, he insists he’s done nothing wrong.
Mario Garcia [to Erin Moriarty]: I wanted to tell the court that I am very sorry Christie Wilson is missing. But I don’t know where she’s at.
The jury doesn’t get to hear about Garcia’s violent past even though he comes face-to-face with a reminder.
To show her support, Wendy Ward travels to Sacramento to meet Debbie and Christie’s family for the first time.
Wendy Ward : I couldn’t stop hugging her. I just wanted to hold her and hug her and all the family. They’re just going through so much.
Wendy heads to court with the Boyds for closing arguments, where Garcia’s lawyer suggests that no one even knows if Christie is dead.
Erin Moriarty: Are you saying that Christie Wilson may still be alive?
Mario Garcia: Do we know if she’s dead?
The jury concluded it did know: “Case 55517 We the jury in the above and titled action find the defendant Mario Flavio Garcia guilty of a violation …”
DEBBIE BOYD [to reporters]: Absolutely justice has been served. It’s about time. Now, if he’s any kind of a man, he’ll tell us where he disposed of my daughter.
At Garcia’s sentencing in January 2007, the Boyds still held out hope that Garcia would disclose where he left Christie’s body in exchange for a lesser sentence.
MARIO GARCIA: I suppose that at this hearing I’m supposed to ask for mercy, for forgiveness, and to show remorse. However … I will not do such thing [sic] … I did not kill Christie Wilson. I am innocent.
Garcia’s sentence, 25 years to life, is doubled because of his assault on Wendy Ward. When other charges were added, his total sentence became 59 years-to-life.
Debbie Boyd [after the sentencing]: At this point, I don’t ever expect that he’ll disclose what he did with Christie.
Jean Garcia : The truth is out there. And Mario told me that we have to found [sic] Christie and that’s the only hope he has.
Jean Garcia did not know that her own family would play a key role in the search for Christie.
WHERE IS CHRISTIE?
Mario Garcia’s murder conviction in 2006 was hardly the end of the case for Christie’s mother. Garcia was sent to prison and the years dragged by. But he refused to say what he did with her body. It’s been the mystery at the center of this case, and it has gnawed at Deb’s soul.
Debbie Boyd: Debbie is forever changed. Mario Garcia changed that. He changed me.
The loss of her daughter was crushing, but Debbie knew she couldn’t allow Garcia to control her life.
Debbie Boyd: We made a commitment … he is not going to take our marriage … He’s not going to take the marriages of our children. He’s not going to disrupt our jobs. We are not giving him any more.
That was not easy as Garcia filed one appeal after another.
Debbie Boyd: You can’t move forward completely when you have all these appeals … You know, it’s like you move forward five steps and then you’re back in it again.
Pat Boyd, Christie’s stepfather and a former San Jose detective, knew the stakes were high.
Pat Boyd: ‘Cause it’s not like we had a tremendous amount of evidence. A small amount of evidence being lost, the case would have been lost.
Nuno Tavares: The concern is always there for appeals but it was not a distraction that it took us away from … our, our tasks and our mission to try to find Christie.
Nuno Tavares, an investigator for the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, and fellow investigator Don Murchison had been on the case from the beginning and never let go.
Erin Moriarty: Why is it so important to the two of you to bring her home?
Don Murchison Because the family needed her … They needed a place where they could go and to spend time with her.
Nuno Tavares: We wanted to give Debbie and her family back control … up until this point, he controlled the location of Christie’s remains. And that didn’t sit well with me.
Morgan Gire: They are incredibly dedicated. They are very experienced … their balance between tough cop and teddy bear is the appropriate balance.
Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire gave Nuno and Murch, as Debbie calls them, the green light to keep looking for Christie and they ran with it — going to extraordinary lengths to find her no matter how dirty the job.
Don Murchison: We actually pumped an entire septic tank out … We pumped out the entire 2,000 gallons of sewage and went through it by hand.
Erin Moriarty: That is determination.
All those searches over all those years turned up nothing but the investigation entered a new phase in 2017 after Tony Lopez, an anchor for the CBS Sacramento, conducted an interview with Debbie. She directed some carefully chosen words to Garcia.
DEBBIE BOYD [CBS Sacramento interview]: I now view him as a lost soul … And that I often wonder — I want him to know I often wonder how he ever became the man that he did. … If Mario were to pass away with me not having had the opportunity to sit and just talk with him, I know I would forever regret it.
Debbie says Garcia spotted that interview and began writing letters to her and Placer County officials. Garcia apologized for what Debbie had gone through but did not accept responsibility for Christie’s murder.
Debbie Boyd: I wanted Christie back so bad that I thought, you know what? Let’s see how far this goes.
Morgan Gire: Deb had struggled with the idea that, you know, what do you negotiate with a man who has been convicted of the murder of your daughter who knows where she is?
But ultimately, Debbie changed her mind—she could not bring herself to negotiate with Garcia.
Debbie Boyd: I was sitting there thinking, “what on Earth are you doing, Debbie? Get a grip.” This would be such a disgrace … He will not use my daughter’s body as a bargaining chip.
Morgan Gire: And we certainly weren’t going to agree to let him out in exchange for the location of her remains. So really, the only option was, find her.
Nuno and Murch reapproached Garcia’s family. Investigators knew Jean Garcia had divorced Mario after his conviction. She had reached a point where she no longer believed Garcia.
Nuno Tavares: … she said she was very convinced that Mario had something to do with Christie’s disappearance and murder.
The investigators also reached out to Garcia’s sons, Kris and Andy, and walked them through the four days in October 2005 after Christie went missing but before police began questioning Garcia. What did they see? How did their father behave?
Nuno Tavares: We went through — every day Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then it got to Saturday. And that’s where the story got a little bit interesting. … Kris had an important soccer game.
Nuno Tavares: He saw his dad working on a tractor … working kind of frantically and had kind of a crazed look in his eyes as he was working around the property … And he told Kris, “I’m not going.” And it was a very firm, “I’m not going.” … Kris found that out of character for Mario.
The investigators asked Kris to accompany them back to his childhood home, which the family lost in 2007, to pinpoint the spot where he had seen his father working on the tractor.
Nuno Tavares: He said it was right next to the detached garage, right along the road.
It was barely 100 yards from the Garcia house. But if he had been digging in that spot with a tractor just days before deputies searched the property, why hadn’t anyone noticed?
Don Murchison: It wasn’t just a small area where he had landscaped … there was landscaping all over the property.
Nuno Tavares: And you’ve got to remember, he had time. Mario has four or five days to really do this right …
Don Murchison: Mario did a extremely good job … making the terrain look like it just fit the area.
And Nuno and Murch also knew that cadaver dogs had roamed the property back in 2005 and had found nothing.
Nuno Tavares: … cadaver dogs are a tool like any other tool that we use. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
A year passed and in August 2020, investigators decided they would take another look. This time, they brought with them a company that specialized in ground penetrating radar or GPR. Nearly the entire 5 acres were scanned, and technicians pinpointed eight spots where there were voids or pockets beneath the surface. The first two holes produced nothing.
Erin Moriarty: You struck out twice.
Nuno Tavares: We’ve been going for a long time. Three is now my favorite hole … it’s my favorite hole because that’s where Mario was working that day …
Erin Moriarty: And how far did you go?
Nuno Tavares: … we started pulling back about 25 feet, pulling just a couple of inches at a time, went about 18-feet wide … and out of the corner of my peripheral, I see a bone popping up out of the ground.
Nuno Tavares: I was a little bit short of breath, I’ll tell you that … The blood was rushing … And we stopped everything. We froze everything.
It was the moment of truth — had Nuno and Murch found Christie Wilson?
“WE FOUND CHRISTIE”
Buried on what was once Mario Garcia’s property, Nuno and Murch had found what looked like a human bone. They needed confirmation, so, they called in archeologist Cindy Arrington. She immediately told them the bone was human, but the detectives weren’t convinced.
Cindy Arrington: He’s like, “you’re not close enough.” I said, “oh, yes, I am [laughs]. … And he said, “get closer.” … So, they had me get down in the trench and really double check, triple check. OK, yes. It’s human.
Human — but was it Christie’s? More identification work needed to be done but finding any human bones on Garcia’s property was big news and they immediately shared it with the sheriff and the DA.
Nuno Tavares: They came to the conclusion that … we need to get this news to Debbie quickly.
And they knew how they needed to get it to her. For years, Debbie and Wendy Ward have helped the detectives teach a class for homicide investigators. And just two months earlier, someone in the class asked Debbie a question no one had ever asked before.
Debbie Boyd: “Mrs. Boyd, if your daughter was ever recovered, how would you want to be notified?” … And I just said, “you know, please don’t ever just call me on the phone.”
Nuno and Murch flew to Scottsdale, Arizona. It was nearly midnight when the Boyds’ doorbell rang. Debbie was asleep on the couch. Pat answered the door.
Don Murchison: He opened up the door and he looked at us and he got a big smile on his face. He said, “Hi, guys, how’s it going?” … And then you could see him pause and you could see things starting to click the gears in his head.
Debbie Boyd: And I got up. … I just was in a fog … And I looked at them and he said, “Debbie. It’s Murch. And it’s Nuno.” I said, “what are you doing here?”
Don Murchison: So. that’s when we told her that we had found human remains on Mario’s property that we believed were Christie’s, but we couldn’t confirm that.
Nuno Tavares: I remember her that night saying, “is it OK to be happy or joyful?” She kept looking around going, “Is that OK?”
Pat Boyd: We didn’t know whether we should open a bottle of champagne, what — it was just a lot of hugs, some quietness and sometimes just sitting there letting it sink in.
Debbie made plans to fly to California to tell her daughter Stacie. And before she left for the airport the next morning, Nuno and Murch heard that their team had had found nearly an entire skeleton and it was definite — the bones were Christie’s.
Days later, Debbie shared the news with the world and made sure to thank Nuno and Murch.
DEBBIE BOYD [to reporters]: Today is a day that absolutely reflects some of the greatest level of perseverance and police work that a victim’s family could ever ask for.
Pat Boyd: They brought two people home. They brought my daughter home. They brought my wife home.
Erin Moriarty: Do you feel that you got Deb back? Tell me about that.
Pat Boyd: She can think of more than just where is Christie?
Kris and Jean didn’t want to speak publicly, but they’re grateful to have closure for Christie’s family, and their own.
Nuno Tavares: Kris, Andy, Jean — they didn’t ask to have a dad and a husband who was a murderer, who buried his victim on their property, where they lived and played. They didn’t ask for that.
And then there were the other victims of Mario Garcia who were hit hard by Christie’s murder, like Danny Burlando, her boyfriend at the time.
Danny Burlando: I didn’t realize … how much had really been bottled up for 15 years. … I think I may have been judged, misjudged, misunderstood through the process … and that didn’t really allow me to grieve and be a victim in this, in this whole thing.
Wendy Ward was also relieved. She knows how lucky she is to have survived her own encounter with Garcia and has used art to help transform the feelings that she’s held onto for all these years.
Wendy Ward: It helped shift those feelings into something positive — what came up in me to create that and to survive and to say no more.
Everyone involved takes pride that Christie was found without making a deal with Garcia. And the discovery lays to rest any doubts about Garcia’s guilt.
Debbie Boyd: I mean, there’s no greater proof.
The autopsy revealed that Christie’s hand and nose were broken, but it couldn’t establish a cause of death.
Erin Moriarty: Do you believe he strangled her?
Don Murchison: I think that’s very likely … what — what occurred that day … But we just don’t know.
Those who loved Christie try to focus on the life she lived. Her best friend Tiffney de Vries says she’s reminded of Christie by the little things she loved — a song on the radio, or the way Christie danced.
Tiffney de Vries: For me, Christie has never been completely gone. I’ve been carrying her spirit with me every day.
Debbie and Christie’s father Dennis had Christie’s remains cremated. In October 2020, to mark the anniversary of her death, Debbie visited the pier in Capitola where the family put a plaque many years ago.
Debbie Boyd: This is a place that Christie just absolutely loved … It was what she called her happy place.
Debbie says no longer having to wonder where Christie is changes everything.
Debbie Boyd: We can grieve the way that we should have been able to grieve 15 years ago. There’s a peace about that.
Debbie Boyd: I was so blessed to be her mom for 27 years and that I will carry with me forever.
Mario Garcia died of pneumonia on December 24, 2020.
He died without ever admitting guilt.
Produced by Paul LaRosa and Dena Goldstein. Greg Fisher is the development producer. Jud Johnston, George Baluzy and Joan Adelman are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer.