Sandra Garcia of Madera wanted so desperately to hang onto her new life with the successful Swedish businessman she met on a dating app that she resorted to kidnapping, torture and sexual assault, said prosecutor Adam Christopherson on the opening day of Garcia’s trial.
The 48-year-old Garcia is facing up to life in prison if she is found guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime, sexual penetration by force, kidnapping, torture and dissuading a witness by force. Her son, Mark Anthony Roque, 25, faces the same charges and potential punishment.
Christopherson told the jury that Garcia, a single mother of four, became the “mastermind” of an elaborate plot to keep her Swedish boyfriend, Johan Gidstedt, from kicking her out of his 4,400-square-foot, five-bedroom home, northeast of Clovis.
From dating app to tension in the home
The couple met on Match.com during the summer of 2014 and hit it off. She was living with her mother in Madera and he was moving up the corporate ladder. From 2012 to 2016, he was president of Tempest Technology Corporation, a maker of ventilation equipment used in firefighting.
Within six months, Garcia moved in with Gidstedt and his two daughters, aged 11 and 13 at the time.
Garcia eventually moved two of her sons into Gidstedt’s home but instead of being one big happy family, tension was growing between Garcia and Gidstedt’s daughters.
Christopherson said Garcia wanted the girls, who were U.S. citizens, to move to Sweden and live with their mother.
In his opening statement, Christopherson played part of a recorded telephone conversation between Garcia and Miguel Carriedo, one of the co-defendants who is expected to testify for the prosecution. In the conversation, Garcia talks about wanting to devise a way to drive the daughters out of the house.
“I want someone to scare the s--- out of them,” Garcia said in the recording. “I want them to be so scared they want to go home to mom.”
On Feb. 16, 2016, Garcia’s plan unfolded. At about 3:20 p.m. the 13-year-old daughter got home and as she was opening the front door, four masked men grabbed her, taped her mouth and forced her into the trunk of a car, Christopherson said. They drove to Tollhouse, took her out of the car, tied her to a tree and ripped her clothes.
“They all took turns torturing her and beating her,” Christopherson said.
One of them also used a stick to sexually assault her, he said.
After the attackers left, the 13-year-old was able to get free and walked about a mile before she found help.
Gidstedt was on a business trip in Portland, waiting for a flight home when he was contacted by someone who said his daughter was missing. For several stressful hours, Gidstedt said he was unable to contact anyone. Eventually, he got a call from law enforcement who told him she had been found and she was OK.
She also wanted to speak to him.
“She cried a little bit and for the most part, she was holding it together really well,” he said.
The trial continued Tuesday with the cross examination of Gidstedt by Garcia’s attorney, Woodrow Nichols and Roque’s attorney, Yan Shrayberman.