At the onset, the death of a 23-year-old woman in a West Gate home appeared to be another suicide of an immigrant too homesick to live, but now police believe that may not be the case.
More than three weeks after Nerida R. Garcia’s death on Aug. 26, police have not ruled out the possibility she was murdered.
A medical examiner’s report, quoted in court documents, said Garcia’s injuries were not consistent with hanging, but that of “manual strangulation and assault.”
Police found a suicide note near her body at a home at 7975 Deward Court that “may not have been written by Garcia” based on examinations of her past writings that was found.
“We investigate all suicides as murders just to make sure that nothing out of the ordinary happened,” said Officer John Bogert. “Usually these cases are wrapped up pretty quick, but this one seems different. I’ve never seen anything like it in 18 years on the job.”
County police investigate all deaths that are unattended by medical personnel, whether it be a suicide or an unknown medical condition.
Most suicide investigations are completed in a few days if the medical examiner’s report corresponds with witnesses. Some investigations take longer if toxicology tests need to be done as well.
In this case, though, the stories conflict.
“It’s hard to say anything for sure right now,” Bogert said. “The case is still classified as a suicide, but that could change. There’s also the chance it could stay a suicide. We can’t say either way right now.”
On Sept. 1, police seized several hairs along with assorted paperwork. Four days later, police searched the home again, taking two computers – an IBM Thinkpad laptop and a generic desktop computer.
Bogert said investigators will search the computers for any communications or personal writings that would shed light on her mental state around the time of her death.
Police released little information about Garcia.
Linda Schermerhorn, a spokeswoman for Lee Funeral Home on Sudley Road, who handled Garcia’s arrangements, said she was an immigrant from Honduras, but did not know what she was doing in the area or how long she has been here. She is believed to not have any family in the area.
Her body is going to be sent home to Honduras in the coming days, Schermerhorn said.
The home where Garcia was found is in the Hallmark Manor subdivision off Sudley Road and is a short walk from West Gate Elementary School. A call to the home seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday evening.
The neighborhood has a strong immigrant presence.