Putting Together the Puzzle Pieces of an Attempted Murder

She worked to create a foolproof plan with one goal in mind: take him out by any means necessary. Nicole Garza thought that everything was going to run smoothly when she hired a hitman to” off” her husband, Jose Garza, a Los Angeles prosecutor. As far as she was concerned, nothing could go wrong from this point on.

Garza Home / Jose Garza / Nicole Garza / Police investigators.

Source: YouTube

She was confident that her hitman would be able to get the job done, but little did she know that her husband was not one to go down without a fight. The twist that she didn’t expect was that her husband ended up shooting and killing the person hired to kill him! What a mind twister of a story you’ve got ahead of you!

It Was Just Another Night…

The evening of September 25th, 1996 was just like any other in the Garza home. The family resided in suburban Sylmar, California, and all was quiet in their relatively safe neighborhood. The family of five had no reason to believe that their entire lives would be turned upside down at a moment’s notice.

An exterior view of the house during nighttime.

Source: YouTube

51-year-old Los Angeles prosecutor Jose Garza was in bed with his wife, 32-year-old Nicole Garza. She was a divorce lawyer, and the two seemed to have a picture-perfect life. That evening, the couple got intimate. Afterwards, Nicole asked her husband to get her an ice cream sandwich. Little did he know, getting the sweet treat for his wife was where everything would go south.

The Dogs Tried to Warn Him

Nicole asked her husband to fetch the treat from the freezer in their garage. She wanted him to get her one of her favorite desserts, a diet ice cream sandwich. While he was heading down to the garage, the family dogs were barking. Something was irritating them, and Jose wanted to play it safe.

Candies are sitting next to the window.

Source: Tumblr

He grabbed one of the many weapons stored throughout his home. He knew it probably wasn’t necessary to take a loaded gun to get ice cream from the garage, but he needed to make sure that he was protected if his dogs’ barking was indeed a warning sign.

An Intruder in The Garage

His intuition was right – something was wrong indeed. Just moments after opening the door to the garage, an intruder in their home started shooting at Jose. The intruder took multiple shots but missed Jose by just a little bit. He managed to pull out his gun from his bathrobe pocket.

A person in a black hoodie hides in the garage.

Source: NBC News

He started firing back in defense. He was a master marksman, and even if the assailant didn’t make their mark, he certainly did. He had shot the intruder. But the biggest question of all was: Who is this mysterious shooter?

Who Was the Hooded Figure, and Why Did They Try to Shoot Jose?

Jose shot back in self-defense. The assailant was down, wearing what was clearly intended to be a disguise – dark sweatpants, a dark hooded sweatshirt, a wig, and sunglasses. Jose called 911 to report what happened in the dead of night.

Hooded figure is hiding to shoot.

Source: NBC News

Keep in mind, all of this was happening while his wife and children were upstairs, tucked into bed for a night of peaceful slumber. The whole family was frazzled – little Emily’s fourth birthday was just hours away at this point. The police arrived to see the crime scene, and the children were brought across the street to their neighbor’s home.

The Detective Is on the Scene

Police arrived at the scene and were ready to start investigating. Evidence was labeled and the garage was processed as a crime scene. Detective Lindy Gligorijevic of the Los Angeles Police Department was assigned to this case and was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Two investigators check the evidence in the garage.

Source: YouTube

Jose and Nicole Garza were driven to the police station in order to be questioned about the scene. Detective Gligorijevic, or “Detective Lindy,” as many know her, first needed to search the home and see how the assailant could have entered. This would help her get to the bottom of the case.

There Was No Forced Entry into The Home

The detectives at the crime scene searched the home for signs of forced entry. They were confused as to how this intruder could get into the garage, of all places. There were no broken windows, no doors pried open, and there were no other indications of how the intruder had entered.

Police cars are parked outside the crime scene.

Source: Facebook

Still, they struggled to put the pieces together; how on earth could this intruder get into the Garza family’s garage without the door being open? Did the intruder know the family, or even more – did they have access to the home? There were many moving parts to piecing this puzzle together.

The Questioning Begins

When arriving at the police station, the couple was split and put into two separate interrogation rooms. Detective Lindy explained that couples often would answer for each other. While this was often unintentional and impulsive, they needed to see how the couple’s stories differed. Would they say the same thing?

Investigators go through noted evidence as they start the questioning.

Source: YouTube

The couple exhibited very different body language during their separate questioning, though one person was more questionable than the other. The police needed first to figure out if Jose was the intended target – or if Nicole could have been the target, and everything had gone awry. What was it?

Jose Might Not Have Been the Intended Target

Though the intruder fired shots at Jose, the detectives were unsure if he was the intended target or not. He was a prosecutor for the city of Los Angeles, so maybe he had someone coming after him. However, his work was centered around prosecuting misdemeanors.

A portrait of Jose.

Jose Garza. Source: Pinterest

That was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. He did prosecute gang members and perpetrators of domestic violence, so it wasn’t unlikely that someone would want payback. Nicole was a divorce lawyer, so investigators looked for any indication that maybe she was the intended target instead of her husband.

There Was Nothing Concerning About the Couple

There was nothing in either Jose or Nicole’s background that was a cause for concern – there was reportedly no clear motive for either one of them to be the target of harm, and the investigators didn’t find much clarity or reasoning for why the couple might be trying to harm their partner, either.

Nicole poses, wrapping her arms around her three kids.

Source: Pinterest

One of the primary concerns for Detective Lindy and her partner, though, was that Jose had a gun in his bathroom. Why would he keep one in there, especially with children in the house? Well, it turns out he had many weapons in his home, which he was comfortable talking about. Apparently, he cared about the safety and sanctity of his home.

The Assailant’s New Evidence

The mysterious intruder was still yet to be identified. They were unconscious, having suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. They identified the assailant as a female and noticed that she had something around her wrist – a key to a Ford Bronco.

The mysterious lies on a hospital bed.

Source: NBC News

While investigators searched high and low for the mysterious vehicle, a few concerns crossed their minds. Female intruders who attempt murder were already rare as it was. Could this have been a previous lover or even an affair gone wrong? They weren’t back to square one, but they definitely had their work cut out for them.

Looking For a Possible Motive

Now that investigators knew the assailant was a female, this gave them a reason to look into Jose’s love life. He denied having any affairs, but they were more interested in learning about his previous marriages. He was married three times – Nicole was his third wife.

Nicole poses with her sister for a portrait on her wedding day.

Lynette Lafontaine-Trujillo, Nicole Garza. Source: Pinterest

It was very strange for investigators to see a woman attempt to carry out a home invasion and murder. They were curious about who this mysterious woman was and what her connection to the family would be. Soon, every question of theirs would be answered.

Nicole Was Too Relaxed

Detective Lindy instantly took note of Nicole Garza’s body language in the interrogation room. Nothing about her appearance showed any form of distress, especially for someone who is spending the late evening hours at a police station after an intruder came into her home – maybe even to attack her.

A still from the interrogation room.

Source: YouTube

Her body language showed no sense of concern. She was sitting on one of her feet, with one leg tucked under her butt. She appeared lazy, with her body just lounging on the table in the interrogation room. She didn’t appear nervous by any means, and that didn’t sit right with the detectives.

Uncovering the Mysterious Vehicle

After searching the neighborhood for the Ford Bronco, they had found a match several blocks from the Garza home. Police found the vehicle that matched the key that they had found. This allowed officers to finally identify the intruder… and that was just the beginning.

The police officer opens the Ford Bronco using the key.

Source: NBC News

In the storage compartment in front of the passenger seat, police uncovered a small plastic bag with torn-up pieces of paper. The shredded pieces were wet, and the investigators couldn’t tell if they’d just stumbled upon some garbage. They noticed there were words on the pieces and decided to have them tested in a forensic lab.

“Nicole, Tell Me About Your Relationship With Your Sister…”

While having a conversation with Nicole and Jose separately, the detectives’ supervisor called one of the partners out of the room. Now, detective Lindy was alone with Nicole. No words were exchanged in the meantime, and Nicole still seemed to be as relaxed as could be.

Portrait of Nicole Garza's sister.

Lynette Lafontaine-Trujillo. Source: Pinterest

When the partner returned to the room, he instantly had one question that he needed to be answered: “Nicole, what can you tell me about your relationship with your sister?” Even then, Nicole was not scared. She started talking to them about the lovely relationship they had. Now, it was clear that something strange was afoot.

A Casual Sister-In-Law Relationship

When investigators came to Jose to ask about his relationship with his wife’s sister, he didn’t know what to make of it. He described not knowing her well at all – he wasn’t quite sure why they wanted to know or what it had to do with anything.

Close-up to Jose's hands as he responds to the interrogation.

Source: NBC News

Jose shared that he and his sister-in-law, Lynette Lafontaine-Trujillo, didn’t have much of a relationship. He described her as kind of flakey but didn’t have much else to say about her. While Jose was baffled over their questions about Lynette, Nicole didn’t show an ounce of curiosity for why her sister was relevant to the case.

The Message With No Meaning

While the Garza couple was in police custody, investigators received a call that their mysterious shooter, now identified as Nicole’s sister Lynette Lafontaine-Trujillo, was awake. She was still in critical condition and clinging to life, but she was alive, nonetheless. Police rushed to her bedside to question her however they could.

Close-up on hands dialing on a cellphone.

Photo by d3sign/Getty Images

Lynette was awake, but she was intubated and therefore unable to speak. She had a tube down her throat to help her breathe and was unable to talk. As a result, detective Lindy asked her what information she could share, and Lynette made a “writing gesture,” so the detective handed her a notepad and pen. She wrote two words that were strange nonetheless: “diet coke.”

The Shredded Letters Were Finally Pieced Together

The torn-up pieces of paper finally had been pieced together, unveiling a series of letters to Lynette. It was clear that the letters were messages to her and that she was certainly not the author of them. It was an instruction manual of sorts.

The shredded letters are placed together.

Source: YouTube

It didn’t take much for investigators to be able to identify the author of the letter. It wasn’t signed, but the frequent use of the word “mom” and some other phrases pointed to a clear suspect. They could tell from the language in the letters that Lynette was being manipulated by none other than her sister Nicole – Jose’s wife!

Lynette’s Harsh and Painful Backstory

Before sharing that Lynette was the intruder, detectives reached out to extended family members to learn more about her. They learned that she struggled with substance abuse, lived with her mother, and had four sons – all of which lived with their respective fathers. She also had an inconsistent personality.

Female investigator hands out a pen and a notebook to Lynette.

Source: YouTube

Lynette appeared to be the complete opposite of her sister. They had different personalities, and they had different lives entirely. She’d continually had problems with pills, men, and low self-esteem. She was seen as a wildcard. Before piecing the letters together, they wondered if she was fueled to attack out of jealousy toward her sister’s picture-perfect life.

Figuring Out Nicole’s Role

As Lynette lost consciousness yet again, they couldn’t question her any further. That didn’t change much for the investigation, though – Nicole’s body language was suspicious enough. As the shredded papers were put together, there were some key phrases that helped identify Nicole’s role – as the person who planned the whole thing!

A portrait of Nicole Garza.

Source: Pinterest

“You have the mental stamina … to do it and forget it … stronger than you give yourself credit for,” Nicole had typed through the scattered pieces of the shredded papers. Her writing showed that she was clearly trying to manipulate her sister, making her feel small however she needed to.

Mind Games in The Restroom

While the couple remained at the police station, Nicole asked to go to the restroom. Detective Lindy accompanied her, and since the bathrooms did not track audio, the detective expected her to ask a question about why her sister was a topic of conversation. Nicole did ask a question, but nothing along those lines.

View to the restroom.

Photo by Kanok Sulamian

Nicole asked a completely irrelevant (yet still, subtly connected) question; “Detective, have you ever had a diet ice cream sandwich? They’re great, especially if you’re looking to lose weight!” Detective Lindy saw this as “middle school drama and manipulation” – Nicole’s (metaphorical) knives were out, and she was ready to play dirty.

There Still Wasn’t Enough for An Arrest

Though police knew that Nicole had to be involved in some way, they didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest. They learned that Lynette had succumbed to her injuries and unfortunately didn’t make it out alive. This made it even harder to get the answers they needed. Fortunately, forensic scientists were still on the case.

Female Investigator kneels as she goes through the substantial evidence at the crime scene.

Source: YouTube

Detective Lindy drove them home, noting Nicole’s strange behavior in the car. She was stroking her husband’s face like a high schooler might caress her boyfriend. After they were dropped at home, the rest of the letter was pieced together.

The Instruction Manual

It was clear to investigators that the letters from Nicole to her sister were not only playing on her sister’s weaknesses, but they were also an instruction manual. “Wear a wig — no makeup … bring your gloves,” the pieces of paper read. That wasn’t even close to the end of it.

A close-up on the hands writing the notes.

Photo by Barbara Taeger Photography/Getty Images

“Bullets go in facing toward the front of the gun.” She was literally giving her sister instructions on how to go about successfully “invading” their home and murdering her husband. The letter described alleged abuse and the big financial payout that they’d both get if he were killed.

Nicole’s Unfulfilled Promises

There were many benefits to come if she carried out the deed, Nicole’s letter said. She promised to get her sister out of debt, Lynette would get full custody of her sons, she’d be able to get breast implants (or “new boobs” as the letter stated); there was nothing that she couldn’t have if she carried this plan out.

A view to the Garza home entrance.

Source: ABC News

This letter was more than enough proof for investigators to make an arrest. They realized they had done something risky – they didn’t know just how badly things could go now that Jose was back home with the woman who planned to have him murdered. They needed to make sure he was safe.

Taking The Criminal Down

Investigators were finally able to nail down Nicole for trying to arrange her husband’s murder. They arrived at the Garza home, the scene of the crime, and handcuffed Nicole, placing her under arrest. She didn’t fight it; she knew it was coming for her – she was just too confident that she wouldn’t be caught.

The police put handcuffs on Nicole.

Source: YouTube

Her plan was revealed to her family; Nicole instructed her sister to enter through the garage side door. She was to hide in the fridge, and after the couple finished having sex, Nicole would send her husband down to get her ice cream, sending him to his death.

Everyone In the House Was Confused

Little Emily Garza was celebrating her fourth birthday when her mother was arrested. She recalled being confused, not knowing what to make of what was happening to her mother. Jose answered the door and was shocked.

Little girl is blowing up the candles on her birthday cake.

Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

Jose found it hard to believe that his sister-in-law was the assailant in question. In addition to plotting her husband’s murder, she was now going to be charged with her sister’s death. Police did not believe that Nicole had any idea of the evidence they had against her.

Jose Refused to Testify Against His Wife

It makes sense that someone who is madly in love with their partner would not see all of their faults and flaws. Even though the gun that Lynette had used was stolen from Jose (not to mention it was registered in his name), he refused to testify against the woman he loved so much.

Nicole takes her seat in the courtroom.

Source: YouTube

Not only did he not want to participate in the prosecution against his wife, he even asked for the case to be dismissed. He couldn’t wrap his head around his wife plotting his demise and still didn’t entirely believe that she was responsible. He was a key witness, and prosecution would become a bit more difficult in this case.

He Visited Her in Prison

Even after plotting to kill him, Jose visited Nicole in jail almost every day, usually up to five days a week. He paid for her lawyer’s fees, called her every day, and did everything he could to remain a supportive husband, even after she pulled something so despicable against him.

Close-up on handcuffed hands.

Photo by Bill Oxford/Getty Images

His empathy for her shocked everyone, but who could blame him? He was like a lovesick child who could not fathom the idea of the person he adored so much doing whatever she could to take him out. She may not have gotten away with murder, but she did murder parts of him.

She Was Sentenced to 15 Years to Life

Even after Jose refused to testify against her, the letter was more than enough to get her to take a plea deal. She pleaded guilty to her charges and was held accountable for her sister’s death, seeing as the whole shebang was planned by her in order to kill her husband.

A video still from a female judge sentencing Nicole Garza.

Source: YouTube

She pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder. The judge compared the story to a Franz Kafka story – full of darkness, twists, and turns. She was sentenced to 15 years to life and never once showed remorse for her crimes. She must have behaved well in prison because she served the minimum sentence of just 15 short years.

Nicole Garza Is Living a New Life

Years later, Detective Lindy saw Jose in a courthouse – “you were right,” he told her. He struggled to understand why the person he chose to spend his life with would plot to kill him. Her children want nothing to do with her and have no interest in being in contact with her – and it seems to go both ways.

Nicole Garza's daughter / Nicole Garza's son

Emily Garza, Richard Garza. Source: YouTube

Jose struggled for years, locking himself in the bathroom and crying to shield his children from the pain he was feeling. They had a hard time seeing him like that. After her release, Nicole Garza moved to Arizona with her new husband. She has shown no interest in keeping in touch with her kids, and they see her as a stranger. Maybe we’ll hear about her plot to kill her current husband soon!

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