CBS’ ’48 Hours: The Search for Christie Wilson’ explores the disappearance of 27-year-old Christie Wilson, shedding light on the evidence that pointed to her demise. Mario Garcia faced murder charges and was eventually convicted. Fifteen years after her disappearance, Christie’s remains were found near his residence. Garcia was implicated not only in Christie’s case but also in a violent assault on another woman and an unsolved case involving a different individual.
Who is Mario Garcia?
Mario Garcia’s life history remains largely unknown, with the earliest documented instance placing him in California around 1976. At that time, he was a neighbor to Wendy Ward in the Bay area city of Fremont. Following Wendy’s separation from her husband, she entered into a relationship with Garcia, which quickly turned abusive—marked by physical, emotional, and sexual mistreatment. Wendy’s decision to end the relationship in 1978 led to a violent assault by Garcia in a secluded area of the Santa Cruz mountains. Although the police did not file a complaint after this incident, a more aggressive episode occurred in January 1979, resulting in Garcia’s arrest on charges of kidnapping, rape, and assault with a deadly weapon.
After being released on bail, Garcia began a relationship with 33-year-old Lynette Smith in 1979. He attempted to portray Wendy Ward as an unstable woman, placing the blame on her for their tumultuous history. Initially, Lynette believed his narrative, but as Garcia subjected her to the same abusive patterns Wendy had described, Lynette realized the truth. On one occasion, the abuse escalated to the point where Lynette had to be hospitalized. By the end of the year, she expressed her intention to end the relationship. Garcia said that he would like to take Lynette and her mother, Davis Smith, for dinner so that he could get some closure.
In December 1979, around Christmas, the trio set out for dinner from Hayward, San Francisco, traveling in Davis Smith’s four-door sedan. Motorists on Doolittle Road near Oakland International Airport reported that around 8:50 p.m., they witnessed the car approaching on the road. Suddenly, it accelerated to 90 mph, crossed two lanes, and plunged into the waters of an estuary. Observers noted that Garcia emerged from the roof of the car and waited until it disappeared before swimming towards the shore. His behavior with the police was uncooperative, providing different accounts to different individuals inquiring about the incident. The case remained officially unsolved, but subsequent events would reveal his negative connection to the accident. In 1981 he was given 18 months of probation for the attack on Wendy Ward.
All of this information surfaced while the police were probing the disappearance of a 27-year-old woman named Christie Wilson. On October 4, 2005, she was spotted in a casino sitting next to Garcia, and surveillance footage captured her leaving the casino with him. However, there was no evidence confirming whether she entered his car. At that time, Garcia was married to Jean Garcia, with two sons, 19-year-old Kris Garcia and a younger boy. He was working as a computer specialist at Sutter Health and was also a youth soccer coach. His wife and kids vouched for him and told him that he was a diligent husband and a father and there was no way he could be involved in the disappearance of a young girl.
When questioned by the police, Garcia admitted to meeting the girl but denied that she had accompanied him. The police identified several inconsistencies in his account, including the direction he claimed to have gone. They also observed scratch marks on his arms and a black eye, which colleagues noted was not present earlier in the day. Garcia’s son also told the police that on the morning after the incident, he had seen his father frantically cleaning his car and he had a frenzied look in his eyes. After searching his house, the police also found several weapons and a forensic evaluation of his car revealed traces of Christie’s blood and hair in his car. It was enough evidence for the police to conclude that Garcia had killed Christie and he was charged with her murder.
Where is Mario Garcia Today?
Mario Garcia’s trial commenced on September 11, 2006, and he was convicted of the first-degree murder of Christie Wilson in January 2007. Shortly after his conviction, his wife, Jean, left him, and Garcia received a sentence of 58 years to life. Throughout the trial, he consistently maintained his innocence regarding Christie’s death and never disclosed the location or details of what happened to her. However, while incarcerated, he attempted to negotiate with Christie’s mother, Debbie Boyd, offering to reveal her daughter’s whereabouts in exchange for assistance in reducing his sentence. Debbie declined such a deal, and the police ultimately discovered Christie’s body in 2020 near Garcia’s residence.
Garcia was serving his sentence at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. However, on December 24, 2020, he passed away while receiving medical attention at an outpatient facility due to contracting COVID-19. The police mentioned in their statement that the 68-year-old Garcia also had lung cancer at the time of his death. Christie Wilson’s family expressed that Garcia’s death has brought them a sense of peace.