A father still grieving, looking after his children

Posted Saturday, Mar. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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sanders Usually when Reynaldo Garcia Jr. leaves work these days, he heads to the Tarrant County Corrections Center to visit his jailed 28-year-old son, Reynaldo Garcia III.

Last Monday after leaving work, he instead went to a cemetery -- to visit his wife's still-unmarked grave. It was the 18th anniversary of her murder, something he can't get out of his mind.

On Feb. 25, 1995, Garcia and his son (known as Rey) had run the 10K race of the Cowtown Marathon, and the father went to work that evening managing a Taco Cabana. His wife had planned to run with them that day, but she had worked late the night before and couldn't make it.

That night, she called her husband from a payphone outside a service station in south Fort Worth. They were talking when Garcia heard a single shot then heard himself yell, "No, Donna."

Two men, 20 and 21, were charged with the crime. One of them, Derrick Reagin, told police he was driving with friend Quincy Patterson and they needed gas money. He said Patterson "told me to pull over, he was going to get some money."

In a letter from prison, Reagin said he didn't know Patterson was going to hurt anyone, but when he got back in the car Patterson said he had shot the woman.

She was the mother of four children: Rey, then 10, and three daughters, ages 8, 6 and 4.

I first met the children almost three years after their mom's death. The family was involved in a program at The Warm Place, a support center for grieving children and their families.

The father had devoted himself to his kids. Garcia was going to work at 3 or 4 a.m., returning home to get the kids ready for school, then dropping the girls off at 8:30 a.m. and Rey at 9. He'd go back to work then pick them up at three different times. He learned to braid and plait the girls' hair, and as the kids got older he made time for their volleyball, soccer and pole vaulting. About eight years ago, he took a job at a Grand Prairie manufacturing company for more predictable hours, making it easier to look after his children. And he seems to have done a very good job of it.

The youngest daughter is majoring in biochemistry at Texas Christian University; the oldest works as a job coach at Six Flags Over Texas and cares for a child with Down syndrome; and the third is enrolled at Tarrant County College.

I told Rey's story in this space a few weeks ago, about his being a good student in school, applying for the U.S. Naval Academy and then joining the Marines.

He served two tours in Iraq and received many commendations but was discharged ("under other than honorable conditions") after he started getting drunk and fighting.

Most people didn't know he was having nightmares and suicidal thoughts, and was, as he put it, "begging and dying on the inside for somebody to help me."

Rey is charged with aggravated assault for hurting his girlfriend and threatening other people.

His father has been standing by his side, trying to get him help and showing up in the courtroom holding a stack of Rey's Marine certificates and honors.

Since Rey's story was published, some of his teachers and former classmates, who remember him as a great student, have joined in to support him.

A new lawyer is on the case pro bono, but there will be expenses to get Rey evaluated.

While Garcia fights for his son, he continues to grieve for his slain wife.

"I haven't let it go," he said last week. "I have yet to put up a [grave] marker, because I can't let it go."

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.

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Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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