Crime

Miami man convicted in missing-body murder trial

Miami-Dade prosecutor Joseph Mansfield points at defendant John Paul Garcia, who is standing trial for the murder of his mistress, Larissa Macriello. The woman’s body has never been found, and she is assumed dead.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Joseph Mansfield points at defendant John Paul Garcia, who is standing trial for the murder of his mistress, Larissa Macriello. The woman’s body has never been found, and she is assumed dead. Miami Herald

The body of Larissa Macriello remains missing, but prosecutors still convinced a Miami-Dade jury that her ex-lover was to blame for her murder.

Jurors on Thursday convicted John Paul Garcia of murdering Macriello, 44, a massage therapist who vanished in June 2013 after visiting his home.

A Miami-Dade judge immediately sentenced Garcia, 47, to life in prison for the conviction of second-degree murder. He was also sentenced to 15 years for grand theft for stealing over $40,000 form Macriello’s bank account.

“The defendant thought, ‘No body, no case,’” prosecutor Joseph Mansfield said. “He was sadly mistaken.”

Garcia’s conviction was the fourth in a missing-body murder case in Miami-Dade in recent years. The verdict came after Miami-Dade jurors deliberated most of Wednesday, initially indicating they were deadlocked on the murder count.

Garcia, who worked as assistant for a local bail bondsman, earlier did six years in prison for drug trafficking. His criminal history also included an arrest on murder charges in 1991. It was a suspected drug rip-off killing case that was eventually dropped.

At the time of Marciello’s disappearance, Garcia was also on probation for hitting his daughter during an argument. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a gun charge.

Though he was married, Garcia had a four-year relationship with Macriello, whom he met online.

During the murder trial, prosecutors showed compelling circumstantial evidence that Garcia was to blame.

Detailed cellphone records showed Macriello visited his home right when she went missing. For weeks afterward, whenever her phone was turned on, it was always in the same place as Garcia’s phone — an indication he had her phone.

Video surveillance cameras captured him driving her car to her bank, where he withdrew money from her account. “He’s just not that bright. He stood in front of the ATM completely oblivious that he was on candid camera,” Mansfield told jurors Wednesday.

In all, over several weeks Garcia cleaned out her account of over $40,000.

“Where did all this money go? Follow the money trail,” Mansfield said during closing arguments on Wednesday, tapping on the defendant’s table inches from Garcia. “Right here ... that’s where the money went.”

Her car also surfaced later in front of her home. It had been thoroughly cleaned, but some blood drops were found in the trunk and on a floorboard. Prosecutors believe he dropped off the car, then called a cab to return home.

Defense attorneys argued that with no body, and no witnesses to any crime, prosecutors had nothing.

“He may have silenced her forever, but the evidence left behind spoke volumes,” said prosecutor Christine Hernandez-Baldwin, who also tried the case. “He’s a murderer and the jury agreed.”

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