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Saturday, June 05, 2004

AP Wire | 06/03/2004 | Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

AP Wire | 06/03/2004 | Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

Associated Press


WICHITA, Kan. - A nightclub owner on trial for killing three men, whose burned and dismembered bodies were found in a Cowley County field, testified that he shot two of them in self-defense.

Arturo Garcia, 31, is being tried for first-degree murder in the deaths last summer of Oscar Ramirez, 27; his brother, Nicolas, 22; and Clint Jones, 30. Jones was slain July 26 in the basement of Garcia's Club Mexico nightclub, and the Ramirez brothers died there five days later.

Witnesses called by the state have testified to seeing the bodies in the nightclub basement and helping dispose of them.

Garcia, taking the stand in his own defense Wednesday, denied killing Jones and said he shot the Ramirez brothers in self-defense when they confronted him. Garcia said his 10-year-old son was with him in the building on July 31 and that he began shooting when it appeared that Oscar Ramirez was going for a gun.

"When he went to his waist, I just snapped," Garcia testified.

Garcia testified that he decided to get into the nightclub business early last year, when he was about to be laid-off from a Cessna Aircraft Co. manufacturing plant. He said he began holding after-hours parties in the unoccupied half of the duplex where he lived, and the Ramirez brothers became so rowdy at one of them that bouncers asked them to leave.

At one of the parties he met Luis Hernandez, a relative of the Ramirez brothers, and Garcia said Hernandez put up $16,000 toward opening a Mexican dance club. "I knew it would attract a rough crowd, the drug dealers," Garcia said.

Garcia said Jones was killed during an all-night rave at the club, and that he found the body in a pool of blood in the basement.

"When I first saw him I thought that maybe he had committed suicide," Garcia said.

Later, Garcia said, he learned that one of his employees had shot Jones, and he told them he was going to call police.

"Everyone just got panicked about having the cops there," he said. "We'd had a lot of illegal activities."

When his attorney asked what, Garcia said, "Drugs. Possibly underage drinking."

He said he spent some time escorting customers from the club and that when he returned to the basement three men were using a long pole to dismember the body. He said that he took a turn as well.

"There was an agreement made that we should all get our hands dirty," he said. "So we could trust each other."

The body was eventually placed in a freezer, Garcia said.

"So you were going to pretend it didn't happen?" District Attorney Nola Foulston asked.

"Correct," Garcia replied.

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