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Man Faces Trial in Girl's Death

Victor Manuel Garcia was 17 when he allegedly killed Ceceline Godsoe, 16, in Costa Mesa park. Now 22, he will face trial as an adult.

April 22, 2006|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

A 22-year-old man charged with beating a 16-year-old Costa Mesa girl to death five years ago will be tried as an adult, prosecutors said Friday.

Victor Manuel Garcia, who was 17 when he allegedly killed Ceceline Godsoe, appeared before Superior Court Commissioner Cheryl L. Leininger Friday. She set his bail at $1 million. His arraignment was postponed to May 4.

Garcia fled to Mexico after learning he was a suspect in the slaying. He was extradited in December 2004 and was recently given a juvenile court hearing to determine whether he would stand trial as an adult.

The victim was last seen with Garcia on Sept. 20, 2001, at Fairview Regional Park in Costa Mesa, prosecutors said. Her severely beaten body was found the next morning on a hiking trail in the park.

Garcia had been at the park with friends, drinking alcohol and celebrating his baby's birth when he ran into Godsoe. The two, who were high school friends, walked off together and got into an argument that ended with Garcia kicking Godsoe in the head and beating her, authorities said.

Garcia became a suspect after he told people he was involved in Godsoe's death. To cover up his crime, he burned his clothes and fled to Mexico, prosecutors said.

The case went cold until October 2003, when Mexican authorities arrested Garcia for allegedly beating his wife, who had gone to Mexico with him. Prosecutors promised the Mexican government during extradition proceedings that Garcia, a Mexican citizen, would be given a hearing to determine whether he would stand trial as an adult. Prosecutors did not promise that Garcia would be tried as a juvenile.

The victim's father, William Godsoe, attended the hearing Friday but declined to talk to reporters.

"We have a 16-year-old girl whose life was cut short," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Kang Schroeder, the spokeswoman for the department.

"It's important that when there's a crime like this that families have some closure and knowledge that the person who did this to their daughter isn't running free."

If found guilty, Garcia could face from 25 years to life in prison, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy.

Garcia's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Andrew Nechaev, declined to comment on the case.

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