First- and second-degree murder charges have been filed against 32-year-old Jordan Joplin for the mid-March death of Ketchikan surgeon Dr. Eric Garcia.
Joplin has been in custody since late March on related theft charges. A Ketchikan Grand Jury Friday handed down indictments also charging him with homicide.
Dr. Eric Garcia was found dead on March 27 in the upstairs living room area of his home on Summit Avenue. Police say Jordan Joplin, of Maple Valley, Wash., had called to report that Garcia hadn’t been seen for about 10 days.
According to the complaint filed in court by police, Joplin told investigating officers that he had visited Garcia on March 16, and left Ketchikan the next day. Joplin identified himself as Dr. Garcia’s close friend.
After the body was discovered, it was sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy as a matter of routine. In the meantime, police say they learned Garcia had some valuable collections that were missing. Money also was missing from Garcia’s bank account.
Police announced in late March that they allegedly found evidence Joplin had shipped items to himself, and initiated electronic bank transfers on March 17, the day after Garcia is believed to have died.
Local police worked with law enforcement in Washington State to intercept the shipped items.
Here’s Deputy Chief Josh Dossett, speaking to reporters on March 31: “Officers recovered a large amount of Dr. Garcia’s property. An arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Joplin for theft in the first degree. Officers contacted Mr. Joplin a short time ago as he attempted to pick up the property, and he chose not to speak with officers.”
Joplin later was extradited to Ketchikan, where he already had been indicted on charges of first-degree theft. The murder indictments were added following additional investigation into Garcia’s death.
Garcia had last been seen at his workplace, PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, at about noon on March 16. He had been due to travel for a week-long conference, and wasn’t expected back for a while.
During the March 31 news conference, Dossett said autopsy results showed no obvious cause of death, so a toxicology screening had been ordered.
Ketchikan District Attorney Ben Hofmeister said after the murder indictment that he can’t comment on the cause of Garcia’s death, in part because it’s not yet in the public record.
“All I can tell you is there was a death investigation going on. I think you can tell from the complaint that, at that time, the reason why the death investigation started in the first place is because Dr. Garcia was found deceased in his own home,” he said. “Based on that information and the investigation that followed, we were able to proceed to the Grand Jury this week and succeed in the superseding indictment.”
Hofmeister said the cause of death could come out during a court hearing, or during trial, if the case goes that far.
Garcia was a general surgeon at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center for about 10 years.
Joplin is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges at 2 p.m. Monday in Ketchikan Superior Court. Another hearing on Joplin’s court schedule is August 4, with a trial currently scheduled to start on August 11, although, with the new charges that trial likely will be rescheduled.