NEWS CENTER Maine is dedicating a week of coverage to Portland's unsolved homicide victims. In the last ten years, nearly half of homicides in the city have gone unsolved. That's a lower clearance rate than the state and country.
PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) - When Kristi McCarthy pulled in her driveway on February 27, 2017, she saw detectives. “I just fell to the ground,” she remembers. “Because I knew it was true.” Her longtime boyfriend Bryan Garcia had been murdered.
A musician and dancer with a love of adventure – she says Bryan’s energy was contagious. “My nieces and nephews loved him,” Kristi said. “My sisters loved him. My parents loved him. He was one of us.”
A transplant from California – Bryan found a second home with Kristi and her family. Their friendship soon turned into love.
After several years together, the relationship shifted. “He just kind of got mixed up with the wrong crowd,” Kristi said.
The two went their separate ways, romantically.
But he was a part of the family. She still saw him every day. Even the day he died.
“I never wanted him to leave when he was around, but that day in particular I just held him for a long time,” Kristi remembered. “I didn’t realize it would be the last hug that I ever got from him.”
That afternoon, Bryan was dead, found slumped over inside his car in Portland’s West End. Kristi was only two blocks away at work – and rushed home when friends texted her to let her know something was wrong. “I was at the stop sign that is like right [near the scene]. If I had looked left, I would’ve seen the scene.” She says she was so focused on getting home to find out what was happening, that she didn’t even see the police cars or caution tape.
When she got to her parents’ house, the detectives were in her driveway. She says she screamed and fell to the ground. “I can’t even explain it because it’s just nothing I’ve ever felt before," she remembers. "Sounds that I didn’t even know I could make.”
Before she could process what happened – the comments online came rolling in. "So glad he's dead," one read.
Another one: "Trash took itself out."
“He didn’t deserve this,” Kristi said. “And I feel like a lot of people think he did [deserve it] because of his past.”
Bryan had a record – drugs and firearms.
He was a lifetime registered sex offender, after a 2006 misdemeanor conviction for sexual abuse of a minor.
Friends say he was dating the victim when a family member reported the relationship.
Portland Police have been silent about Bryan Garcia’s case – until our cameras were rolling almost one year later. Assistant Chief Vern Malloch told NEWS CENTER Maine the department believes this murder is drug-related. He says detectives traveled out of state to follow leads as recently as a few months ago – and that Bryan’s case is still being actively investigated.
Kristi says she hasn’t been given any of these details. “It was almost like I felt like I was going in [to the police station] too much to ask them questions or see what was happening,” she said. “Because then they were like ‘well we can email.’ But I haven’t received one email.”
Nearly half of Portland’s homicide cases from the last decade are unsolved.
The Assistant Police Chief says releasing too many details to families could unravel the department’s progress. “We can’t tell them every single thing that we are doing on the case,” he explained. “We have to hold those investigative leads and that knowledge close to the vest.”
Kristi is back to work after months of grieving at home. She’s reminded of Bryan every day – in pictures – and from her family, who considered him one of their own.
“I’m trying to continue to live my life, but in the back of my mind I’m just like who did this?” Kristi said through tears. “Like who took him? Because they didn’t just hurt him, they hurt everyone that he was connected to.”
Police say any details from the public can help them solve murder cases. Do you know anything? If so, call (207) 874-8533 or submit an anonymous tip here.