The Disappearance of Angel Garcia

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EARLY LIFE:

Angel Garcia was born on March 5, 1992. When he was 10 years old, his parents, Laura Suazo and Ralph Garcia, separated, a time which saw Angel and his mother grow very close. The family, which also included his sister, Rose Jimenez, lived in Hartford, Connecticut, where the children grew up being taught that family was the most important thing.

In 2011, Angel was living with his mother and his girlfriend of 14 months, Omayra Serrano. The pair had met through Facebook and their relationship had grown serious quite quickly. Before long, Omayra had moved into the family home with her two-year-old son, whom Angel got along well with. The living situation inspired Angel to begin cooking more, and he would often make dinner each night for the rest of the household.

19-year-old Angel had Attention Deficit Disorder, which caused him to struggle in school. As such, he wasn’t the most punctual student and had fallen behind a couple of years. While he’d tried medication in the past, he disliked the way it made him feel, so he stopped taking it. Despite being behind, he was determined to earn his high school diploma.

In September 2011, Angel got a red Honda dirt bike, which is described as having been his pride and joy. He’d told Laura that his father had given him the money to purchase it, and he spent almost every day with it, washing it and driving along trails and the streets of Hartford.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

On the evening of October 20, 2011, Laura returned home from work to find Angel had dinner waiting for her. As it was 10:00pm and she was tired, she decided to head to bed without eating.

The next morning, Laura was getting ready for work and saw Angel was still in bed. Assuming he’d be getting up soon to head to school, she left the house. However, Angel had other plans.

At 10:30am, Angel went to see his friend, Joel, with whom he’d had plans to dirt bike with. The pair went to Joel’s uncle’s house, which had a field behind it. The pair rode together for a few hours – Angel on his bike and Joel on an ATV – until the ATV ran out of gas. After the pair pushed it back to Joel’s uncle’s house, Angel said he was going to continue riding in east Hartford. Joel declined to go with him, citing other plans.

At 1:00pm, Joel watched Angel ride off alone, heading east.

At 9:30pm, Laura was getting ready for bed when she noticed Angel wasn’t home. However, as she had to work in the morning, she went to bed, assuming he would be back at some point during the night.

DISAPPEARANCE:

In the middle of the night, Laura awoke to yelling echoing in from the street below her bedroom. A voice, which sounded like Angel’s, had said, “Go ahead, break it.” Laura left her room in a panic and ran into Omayra in the hallway, who had also been awakened by the shouting. The pair ran out to the front porch, but found the street empty.

When they returned inside, Laura asked Omayra where Angel was, but his girlfriend didn’t know, saying he hadn’t been answering or returning her calls. She said she’d last spoken to him around 11:00am the previous morning when he’d been out with Joel. Despite him promising to call her back later in the day, he never did, and Omayra had assumed he’d had no service or that his cellphone had died.

Laura ended up staying awake until 6:00am that morning, calling anyone she thought would know where Angel was. She was concerned, as it was unlike him to not answer his phone, nor keep in touch. 12 hours later, at 6:00pm, she reported her son missing.

SEARCH:

A patrol officer responded to the house after receiving the call, where he took a missing persons report from Laura. That’s when he learnt about Angel spending time with Joel. Officers immediately followed up with Angel’s friend, who verified that Angel had been with him during the day on October 21, but had left to ride the trails behind a row of car dealerships in east Hartford. When asked why he hadn’t joined him, Joel said he’d had errands to run and that he didn’t like driving to the east Hartford area, as it meant having to drive on the highway that crosses the Connecticut River.

There are two road bridges that span the Connecticut River, both of which contain busy highway traffic. The only other option Angel had to cross the river would be to drive over the train trestle, which many dirt bike and ATV drivers did. This led investigators to theorize that Angel may have lost control of his bike and fallen from the railroad bridge, into the river, which was at flood stage at the time. However, nothing had washed ashore, and as there was no surveillance cameras on the trestle, there was no proof he’d taken this route.

After learning that Angel was planning to drive along the trails behind a row of car dealerships, investigators looked at surveillance footage from said dealerships, but the footage didn’t show Angel, nor his dirt bike.

Toward the beginning of the investigation, police were worried that Angel had possibly injured himself while riding, meaning he was potentially stuck on one of the city’s trails. This concerned them, as the nights were growing increasingly colder.

Investigators were able to obtain Angel’s cellphone records, which confirmed his last call was with Omayra on the morning of October 21. The records also showed that the cellphone had pinged off a cell tower that same day at 3:28pm, more than two hours after Joel last saw him. This prompted a search of Joel’s uncle’s field and the area surrounding the cell tower. It consisted of detectives, Angel’s friends and family, specialized units, patrol officers, the marine unit and the K9 unit. Despite an extensive search of both areas, no evidence of Angel or his bike were located.

A friend of Angel’s named Josh came forward to police, saying he’d last seen Angel riding his bike on the night before he disappeared. According to Josh, the pair were riding with friends in the area of Trinity College when a tan Jeep Cherokee drove by, made an abrupt U-turn and began to chase them. Angel had turned off the road and drove into a field, so the Jeep had circled back to Josh, where the driver and occupant, two white men with blond hair, asked about Angel.

This information suggested to investigators that foul play could have been involved in Angel’s death, and prompted them to follow up on another tip from Angel’s best friend. The man shared that Angel’s dirt bike had actually been stolen and that he, Angel and Joel were the one’s who’d stolen it. According to the friend, Angel had found the bike on Craigslist a month earlier and had recruited him and Joel to help him steal it. He’d met the sellers at their home and had asked for a test drive, during which he drove off and loaded the bike into a hidden truck. The friend had been afraid to inform the police of this, as he hadn’t wanted to get in trouble.

Laura found this information hard to digest, as she’d taught Angel not to steal.

Investigators discovered that a bike in the east Windsor corridor had been stolen a month earlier, and that the victims were a 15-year-old boy and his stepfather. Believing the pair could have possibly been the men Josh had seen in the Jeep, the two were questioned. They instantly recognized Angel when shown a photo of him, and their story matched that of Angel’s friend. Given they’ve been cooperative throughout the investigation and don’t match the descriptions of those in the Jeep, they have been deemed to have no connection to Angel’s disappearance.

Wanting to move the case along, investigators decided to take a formal statement from Joel at the police station. They found his story didn’t differ from the one he’d originally told them. When they asked him to point out where Angel had gone biking on a map, they noticed it made Joel uncomfortable. When they brought this up with him, he maintained he’d had nothing to do with his friend’s disappearance. To further see how he’d react under pressure, Joel was asked to take police to the railroad tracks Angel may have traveled. It was after this that he was deemed to have not had anything to do with Angel’s disappearance, and police maintain he’s been cooperative with the investigation.

Angel’s family feels Joel’s story doesn’t make sense, as they say Angel would never have driven the trails to east Hartford alone.

There has been no activity on Angel’s social media or bank accounts, nor on his cellphone. He also hasn’t made contact with any friends or family.

As the investigation continued, investigators learnt that a tan Jeep Cherokee had recently been involved in a hit-and-run minor collision. Curious about if it was the same one that had chased Josh and Angel, they located the Jeep, unoccupied, and learnt it had been stolen in a carjacking on the day the chase involving Angel had occurred. The vehicle was seized and a search warrant was obtained to search it, with forensic investigators looking for DNA, weapons and/or fingerprints. A traceable print was located in the car, which after being ran was found to belong to a Hispanic man. Even though he had a criminal record, police could find no evidence to connect him to the car chase, as he didn’t match the description of the men provided by Josh.

Tips continued to come into the Hartford Police Department, including one that claimed Angel had been seen riding his dirt bike with a friend named Anthony around 5:00pm, hours after he’d left Joel. This piqued investigators’ interests, as they’d initially been working on the theory that Angel was last seen alive at 1:00pm on October 21. When they tracked Anthony down, he admitted to riding with Angel, but said it had been a day earlier, on October 20. He said he knew it had been then, since he was with his girlfriend at 5:00pm on October 21.

In order to corroborate his story, Anthony’s girlfriend was interviewed. She said they’d been together at 5:00pm, but that they’d stayed out late into the evening, which contradicted Anthony’s story, as he’d told them he’d returned home early after the pair hung out. When they confronted Anthony about the discrepancies, he admitted that he’d lied about being out late because he’d violated his court-ordered 10:00pm curfew, which was the result of an earlier juvenile offence. He’d been afraid of getting in trouble by saying he’d been out late with his girlfriend.

Investigators do not consider Anthony a person of interest in Angel’s disappearance.

Numerous tips have been called in that have not been deemed credible, including one that said Angel had been shot in the head and thrown into the Connecticut River, another that said his body had been burned in a dumpster, and a final one, which claimed he’d been kidnapped.

On January 9, 2012, a convenience store clerk in New Britain, Connecticut, 15 miles from Hartford, called police to say Angel had visited the store. She claimed to have recognized him from a flyer, and added that he had a fresh tattoo of his name on his neck. The visit had been captured on the store’s surveillance camera and Laura was shocked to see how much the man on the footage looked like her son. This led police to believe the man was actually Angel.

A few days later, the clerk contacted police again, claiming to have seen him once again, this time getting into a car. Despite writing down a partial license plate number, the police weren’t able to locate the car or its owner, so they set up surveillance of the store. They eventually saw the man, but after they confronted him found he wasn’t actually Angel, but an individual who could have passed for his double. His name was Nelson and the tattoo on his neck actually read “Ashley”. When questioned, he revealed he’d never heard of Angel, nor his disappearance.

Over the years, there have been no new developments in the case. Investigators remain in constant contact with Angel’s family, and they have his DNA, dentals and fingerprints on file, should they need them. Over the years, air and water searches had been conducted, but have turned up no leads.

Angel’s family is convinced there is someone out there who knows what happened to him.

THEORIES:

1) The primary theory held by police is that Angel’s disappearance is the result of an accidental drowning. They feel he likely fell into the Connecticut River while driving over the train trestle, something that would explain the lack of evidence, as well as his missing dirt bike. Given the river is too deep and dark to be searched with the use of divers or sonar, a proper search has never been possible.

2) A second theory in the case is that Angel’s disappearance is the result of foul play. Some think that it’s connected to the Jeep Cherokee that chased him and Josh, while others believe the people he stole the dirt bike from are somehow involved, hiring someone to retaliate on their behalf. However, given the lack of evidence in the case, it’s difficult for investigators to say if Angel met with foul play.

AFTERMATH:

Angel’s disappearance has taken a devastating toll on the family. Laura has taken it the hardest.

The family teamed up with the non-profit, LostNMissing, to aid in their search. In August 2012, the organization planned a “Shining Hope” event, which called for volunteers to hang missing persons posters up across Hartford and release balloons in Angel’s memory. A few months later, on the one year anniversary of his disappearance, they held a vigil for him.

On October 21, 2019, Angel’s family and friends held a vigil at Colt Park, where he is believed to have last been spotted. They released balloons with his image, in the hopes they’d travel far enough to grab people’s attention.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Angel “Ito” Garcia was last seen in the vicinity of Newfield Avenue and New Britain Avenue in Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut on October 21, 2011. He was 19 years old, and was last seen wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and black sneakers with a red design. At the time of his disappearance, he stood at 5’8″ and weighed 180 pounds. He has brown eyes and brown hair, which is typically worn in braids or a ponytail, and has moles on his upper lip, upper back and chest, between his nipples. He also has scars on his right hand, across his knuckles; his chin; and on his right knee. One or both of his ears are pierced.

The Red Honda 85 cc dirt bike Angel was riding is also missing. It features several Geico stickers on it, with the most notable being a large yellow one on the side of the bike.

Currently, his case is classified as a missing persons investigation. If alive, he would be 28 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Hartford Police Department at either 860-757-4000, 860-757-4242 or 860-757-4236.

Image Credit: Missing Persons and Unsolved Cold Cases

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