Man hacked, parts stuffed in backpack; couple sought

Image: Herbert Tracy White
Herbert Tracy WhiteCalif. DMV via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A manhunt was under way Wednesday for a Pennsylvania couple who police say killed a Good Samaritan who befriended them, then cut up his body and stashed the pieces in a backpack and under a bed in their Skid Row hotel room.

Edward Garcia Jr., 36, and Melissa Hope Garcia, 25, who also goes by the name of Melissa Turner, are considered armed and dangerous, police Detective Richard Arciniega said.

The couple had several previous arrests for robbery in Pennsylvania, and investigators believe they were trying to rob Herbert Tracy White of Hollywood when he was killed Thanksgiving weekend in a room at the Continental Hotel, Arciniega said.

White's family asked for the public's help in finding the Garcias.

"Get these monsters off the streets," said a brother, Anthony DeMarco White, 51, of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged the couple Tuesday with murder with the special circumstance of torture.

White, who would have turned 50 Wednesday, was cut into five pieces with a knife and his limbs were stuffed into a backpack, the detective said. His torso was found wrapped in a blanket under the bed.

A maid discovered the grisly evidence on the morning of Nov. 29.

The couple had tried to wipe up the blood, and investigators suspect they were going to take away the body but were interrupted, Arciniega said.

Investigators believe White met the couple a day or two earlier in Hollywood.

"He befriended them, helped them out, gave them money, maybe a place to stay, and they ended up killing him," Arciniega said.

At a news conference, weeping relatives said White, who had battled alcoholism but was clean for 15 years, went out of his way to help the unfortunate. He felt it was a way of paying back the help he had been given.

White would get up in the middle of the night to drive home friends who had been drinking, they said.

He hired homeless people off the street to help him on odd jobs, made up plates of food to hand out, and doled out cash — sometimes $20 at a time — that he kept in his pocket, said his brother David White, 49, of Los Angeles.

When he last talked to his brother less than two weeks before his death, White said it was his "busy time of year" for helping people, David White said.

Family members sometimes worried about White's penchant for helping strangers without a second thought, but he was "a man who did what he wanted to do," his wife said.

White mentioned that after Thanksgiving, he had met a "lovely young couple" at an ATM and had given them a couple of cigarettes and a couple of dollars, said his mother, Elizabeth White.

Around 2 a.m. Nov. 28, White got a telephone call and told his wife that he had to go and give someone a ride, she said.

She thought it was someone who had gotten tipsy because White hated drunken driving and made himself available as a driver if people had been partying too much, said his wife, Annie Coty-White, 72.

"He said, 'I'll see you tomorrow.' That's the last I saw of him," she said.

Her husband borrowed her car, which was found outside the hotel where he was killed. His keys were missing, she said.

The hotel room was rented by the Garcias, Arciniega said.