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DNA, dental records help police identify burned, tattooed woman

Victim identified as Stephanie Louise Garcia, 34

SAN ANTONIO – With the help of DNA evidence and dental records, San Antonio police have learned the identity of a woman whose body was found burning inside a garage on the city’s Southwest Side earlier this year.

Police said Stephanie Louise Garcia, 34, was the victim of a murder.

Arson investigators found Garcia’s body after putting out a small fire inside a garage in the 300 block of West Harding Place on Jan. 22. 

Detectives later determined she had been strangled. 

Officer Douglas Greene, a public information officer for the San Antonio Police Department, said it’s still unclear why Garcia was killed or how she came into contact with her killer.

"We do know that Ms. Garcia, she was living a pretty hard life at the time, was homeless at the time,” Greene said.

In an unusual move, detectives identified the suspect in the case and arrested him before they knew who the victim was.

Javier Hernandez, 30, was taken into custody about a month after Garcia's death.

At one point, investigators reached out to the public for help in identifying Garcia. They released a photo of a tattoo they found on a section of her back that wasn’t burned.

"The body was so badly damaged that you couldn't make out who (it was) by looking, any kind of facial recognition. All of that was a challenge," Greene said.

Although investigators did receive numerous tips, the medical examiner ultimately identified the victim through DNA and dental records, Greene said.

Detectives were able to notify Garcia’s relatives, who live in Arizona.

The discovery not only means closure for the family but also for the detectives who worked the case.
 
"These homicide detectives go home at the end of a shift, but they still have some sleepless nights thinking about these cases," Greene said.

Their work, he said, still may not be done. Greene said they’re trying to determine if there may have been a second person involved in the homicide.

Anyone who has additional information on the case is asked to call San Antonio Crime Stoppers at 210-224-7867.

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