Home insurance arson shrouds child murder plot

By James Quiggle
January 7, 2015

imageTwo infants died of smoke inhalation in a blackened bedroom from a fire Angela Garcia set to steal insurance money and remove the unwanted kids from her life.

Fire fighters found little Nyeemah (age 3) and Nija (age 2) dead on the floor of their Cleveland home after a fierce blaze had turned the place to piles of smoldering rubble.

The kids laid on opposite sides of a bed. Nyeemah was wrapped with the cord from a window blind to keep her from escaping the fire, prosecutors charged. Nijah was in his final throes and an emergency medical technician tried three times to shock her heart back into action.

Garcia had overvalued the contents of her home on a $40,000 renter’s insurance policy she bought just weeks before the fatal blaze broke out. 

She was indicted for insurance fraud, aggravated murder and other charges. Evidence was hard to come by at first, and prosecutors doggedly built a circumstantial case through a series of trials, mistrials, retrials and appeals.

No evidence collected

Investigators initially decided the fire was accidental after viewing the piled ruins. A trained also dog detected no flammable liquids.

The home was demolished two days after the fire. No evidence was collected for lab testing. Still, prosecutors relentlessly built a circumstantial case.

“She no longer wanted her children, and had tried to give custody to her sister so she could get married or join the Navy.”Then investigators learned Garcia had fraudulently overvalued the contents of her home to inflate a renter's insurance claim.

The fire may have started from a large candle that overturned onto the dining room floor, Garcia claimed. Yet arson investigators reviewed photos of the rubble. They found two burn patterns started by a flammable liquid. One was on the dining room floor, and the other on the stairway. The flames quickly shot upstairs.

Garcia also said she crashed through a second-floor window and slid down the porch roof to the ground. Yet she had little or no soot on her, and required no treatment for smoke inhalation. Nor did Garcia have cuts from shattering the windowpanes. 

If she’d dived through the window, she also would’ve stepped over the body of one of her dying daughters, a Cleveland fire captain said. Why leave the child there?

Shed no tears after fire

Garcia set the fires and walked out the front door, prosecutors charged. The home’s doors were locked, a neighbor testified. Garcia also cried at the scene, but equally suspiciously shed no tears and didn’t try to go back inside. She quickly filed an insurance claim after the fire, freely socialized and showed little remorse, prosecutors contended.

A neighbor saw people removing a washer, dryer, furnace and hot-water heater before the blaze broke out. The security system also was disabled.

Jailhouse snitch Tonya Lanum said Garcia confessed to setting two fires in the house.

She no longer wanted her children, and had tried to give custody to her sister so she could get married or join the Navy, prosecutors also charged. She went through a series of trials and appeals.

Garcia was convicted of insurance fraud and killing the kids. She received life in prison. 

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