Texas

Wife told soldier her baby died — then tried to sell the newborn on Facebook, police say

U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Garcia holds the baby boy his wife told him died during birth.
U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Garcia holds the baby boy his wife told him died during birth. Courtesy

Army Sgt. Steven Garcia is a patrol supervisor with a military police unit, but the fight of his young life isn't on a battlefield.

He's fighting for custody of a child who isn't his, biologically.

From Seoul, South Korea, where he's stationed, that's a hard battle to win.

When his now-estranged wife, Marina Garcia, told him she was pregnant during his deployment, Steven assumed he was the father, he told KVOA. Then, when Marina told him their daughter died at birth, he initially believed that, too.

"It was pretty emotional. We cried quite a bit together over the phone," Steven told the station. "It was devastating."

But the baby was born on Feb. 2, at Canyon Vista Medical Center in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It's actually a boy, but he was not fathered by Steven, 24. Being overseas made it that much harder to cut through all the lies back home.

marinagarcia.jpg
Marina Garcia, 31, pleaded guilty in April to an attempted scheme to defraud. She will be sentenced in June. Cochise County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office

While Marina, 31, tried to hide the truth from Steven and his family, police say she was conspiring with a couple from the small town of Kenedy, Texas, to sell the little boy and forge paperwork to give Alex and Leslie Hernandez legal parental rights, according to the Sierra Vista Herald.

According to Arizona Range News, Marina and the Hernandez couple arranged to make the sale using Facebook Messenger.

Three days after the little boy was born, an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer pulled over the couple along Interstate 10 near Wilcox, Ariz. The baby was in the car with them, but they eventually let it slip that they were not the child's biological parents.

Alex Hernandez, 33, pleaded guilty to forgery in April for signing the boy's birth certificate as father. Leslie Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit forgery, according to the Herald.

hernandezcouple.jpg
Alex Hernandez, left, and his wife, Leslie Hernandez, have both pleaded guilty in their cases surrounding the plot to buy Marina Garcia's baby. Cochise County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office

The couple's sentencing won't be carried out until Marina Garcia's case moves through the courts. The couple were allowed to go back to Texas while awaiting sentencing but could face a year in prison, plus four years' probation, for their part in the scheme.

Marina also pleaded guilty in April to an attempted scheme to defraud, according to KVOA. She admitted to investigators that she conspired with the Hernandez couple and planned to travel to Texas after she recuperated from delivering the child to sign away her parental rights, according to Stars & Stripes.

She will be sentenced in June.

It would be easier for Steven, who is divorcing his wife, to simply wash his hands of the whole tangled affair. But he's still fighting for adoptive custody of baby Leo, who is in foster care.

Why?

Because he was adopted, too, and he wants the chance to impact a life the way someone once did for him.

"My adoptive father completely changed my life. Without him, I would not be where I am today," Steven told KVOA. "For the opportunity to do that for someone else, it's important. I believe it could change the child's life. "

Steven's cousin Shelbie Clark has started a GoFundMe campaign to help offset his travel and legal expenses in his fight for custody of the baby.

If you notice suspicious activity in your community, call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

  Comments