Aurora woman’s suspected strangler was her past abuser, records reveal

“We know that people who are abusing will seek to re-establish that control they feel they lost,” said Amy Miller, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “And homicide is the ultimate form of control.”

Ally Raber

A photo of Ally Raber from her facebook.com page.

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A photo of Ally Raber from her facebook.com page.

Arturo Garcia

Arturo Garcia, mug shot courtesy Aurora police.

AURORA | When an Aurora police sergeant saw the recent high school graduate’s body inside a motel room

bathroom last week, he recognized the slain 18-year-old woman instantly.

It was Ally Raber, the girl whose regular abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Arturo Garcia, the sergeant had investigated close to half a dozen times in just a few months before her slaying, according to police and court records. The Aurora police sergeant almost instantly zeroed in on Garcia, 20, the man police say killed Raber and has been on the run since.

Court documents filed against Garcia in Raber’s July 2 slaying and in another case where he is accused of beating her detail a string of attacks on Raber. Raber told police the abuse included at least one prior strangulation attempt, kidnapping, several beatings and an attempt to extort Raber’s family using private pictures of her.

Amy Miller, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said many aspects of Garcia’s alleged abuse — including the prior strangulation attempts, violating protection orders and his recent release from jail — were all clear warning signs that the abuse could be escalating toward murder.

And the days after a domestic abuser is released from incarceration are especially dangerous, she said.

According to court records, Garcia was released from jail June 22. Police found Raber’s body nine days later inside a room rented in Garcia’s name at the Knight’s Inn Motel near East Sixth Avenue and Interstate 225.

“We know that people who are abusing will seek to re-establish that control they feel they lost,” Miller said. “And homicide is the ultimate form of control.”

The court records detail a string of escalating abuse and a pattern of Garcia ignoring court orders to stay away from Raber.

In one incident from October 2016, Raber, then a senior at Eaglecrest High School, told police Garcia slapped her in the face and smashed her phone on the ground.

And in January 2017 her mom called police because one of Raber’s eyes were bloody from another attack at the hands of Garcia.

Then Raber told police Garcia kept her from her family for nine days in January, beating her regularly and threatening her if she tried to leave. At one point she told police he wrapped his hands around her neck, choking her till she passed out in a park.

While he was free on bail pending trial for one of the cases, police say Garcia demanded $500 from Raber’s mother and threatened to release nude photos of Raber if he wasn’t paid.

Police arrested Garcia in March and he was later charged with a dozen crimes against Raber or her family, including felony kidnapping, felony attempted strangulation, felony extortion, felony assault, felony stalking and harassment.

This spring, prosecutors dropped all but two of the charges as part of a plea agreement. Garcia pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and felony extortion and was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for 70 days he had already been behind bars. He was also sentenced to four years probation and “domestic violence evaluation and treatment.”

Vikki Migoya, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office, said she couldn’t say whether Garcia completed that evaluation. She said the DA’s office also couldn’t discuss Garcia’s prior plea deal — or whether Raber had agreed to it — because of the pending charges against him.

Miller said when a case involves attempted strangulation, anti-domestic violence advocates would like to see felony prosecutions. Attempted strangulation is one of the best predictors of subsequent slayings, she said.

“When somebody is strangling their partner, they are basically demonstrating that they have control over that partner’s breathing, over that person’s life,” she said.

But Miller said she isn’t sure if keeping Garcia behind bars for longer than the few months he served this spring could have prevented Raber’s slaying.

“I’m not sure that there is anything we can do on a policy level that will prevent all people who abuse their intimate partners from taking that ultimate step of control and taking the life of the person that they have been abusing,” she said.

Miller said that because of Raber and Garcia’s young age the case is especially tragic.

But, she said, with treatment and other preventative measures — including abusers seeking help before their abuse escalates to homicide — cases like this are preventable.

“I don’t think there is any such thing as a lost cause in a human being,” she said. “People can and do change their behavior. ”

In the affidavit Aurora police homicide detectives filed asking for an arrest warrant for Garcia, police said surveillance videos shows Garcia and Raber enter a room at the Knight’s Inn where Raber was later found. Video shows Garcia leave the room, including once when he carried some court documents from his prior cases to a nearby dumpster. The video never shows Raber leave or anyone else enter until the maid who called police to report finding Raber’s body.

Police released Garcia’s mug shot July 4 and asked the public for help locating him. He is described as a Hispanic male, 5-feet 6-inches tall, 154 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. State and court records say he has ties to El Paso, Texas, and Arizona.

Police are asking anyone with information about Garcia’s whereabouts to call the APD Fugitive Apprehension and Surveillance Team Tip Line at 303-627-FAST (3278).

Anyone with information about Raber’s death can call Detective Todd Fredericksen at 303-739-6106. Tipsters can also remain anonymous by calling Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 and may be eligible for a $2,000 reward.

Aurora police spokesman Officer Bill Hummell said July 6 police cannot say how many tips they have received in the case so far.

If you are in a crisis or need immediate help, dial 911 or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or TTY (800) 787−3224 or visit the Colorado Coalition against Domestic Violence online at CCADV.org and click the “find help” tab.