Clover man sentenced to 20 years for trying to dig up girl's grave

YORK — A Clover man pleaded guilty but mentally ill today to charges of destruction of a graveyard stemming from a 2005 case in which officials say he tried to dig up a girl's grave after seeing her picture in the obituaries.

Bryan Nicholas Garcia, 23, of Bonnie Glen Road was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Judge John C. Hayes.

John Rhea, Garcia’s attorney, declined to say whether he would appeal the sentence. Prosecutor Dan Hall said the sentence was just. “That was the maximum he could have received,” Hall said minutes after court. “It was an appropriate sentence.”

Garcia, a York Comprehensive High School graduate and a National Merit Scholar, also is required to register as a sex offender, Judge John C. Hayes said.

The sentence stems from an incident that happened May 4, 2005.

Officers responded to Clover-based Food Lion grocery store, where Garcia had run through the store clad in a full-length green coat, black sweater, camouflage gloves and a hockey mask.

Garcia was arrested and charged with concealing his identity. Police found gloves, a black plastic bag, shovels, a pickax and other digging tools. They also found a stolen license plate, which was taken from an outlet mall near Paramount’s Carowinds off Interstate 77.

“He informed them (officers) that he was embarassed about something he’d done,” Hall said in court. “He advised that he had been digging up graves.”

Officials learned of previous reports of graveyard tampering at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill, Hall said.

Reports from York County Sheriff’s office noted, “There was a freshly dug hole in the cemetery....approximately three feet in depth and about two to three (feet) in diameter.” One of the graves in question belonged to a girl.

“He had seen the name of a little girl in the obituaries in the paper,” Hall said about Garcia. “She was 12-years old. He thought she was cute, and he wanted to take her home.”

On Wednesday, court testimony revealed Garcia started digging at the grave yard on April 2, 2005. He returned April 25, 2005.

“He dug a little bit wider and deeper,” said Hall, who added Garcia did not locate the girl’s grave site.

For more details, read Wednesday's Herald.