Body found at Alameda Point identified
For thirty-nine long months, John Paul Garcia’s file sat in a pile on Detective Rod Rummel’s desk. During those months, Rummel, an 18-year veteran of the Alameda Police Department, saw dozens of other missing persons cases come and go. But the case of Garcia, a 26-year-old Applebee’s employee and Alameda resident who went missing after a work shift one night in July 2006, remained a mystery to him. Until October 13.
Rummel had just got off work or was off that fall day, he’s not sure which, when he was called in. A man who had entered an abandoned apartment building at the corner of Orion Street and West Tower Road looking for scrap metal found some skeletal remains in a second floor unit, and called police.
After the Naval Air Station closed, the building gained a new life as a host for training exercises held by the Alameda Fire Department. But it had since been boarded up and fenced in. Rummel said it hadn’t been used in five years.
But he now believes that Garcia found a use for it – as a home.
“He was probably staying there, living there,” the detective said.
The remains lay clad in an Applebee’s uniform, an early clue that they belonged to Garcia. They also bore paperwork that contained a familiar name – Garcia’s sister, Rummel said.
“I thought, ‘This could be our missing person from three years ago,'” Rummel said. But he couldn’t yet prove it.
But Rummel had a powerful piece of evidence at his disposal: DNA he had collected from Garcia’s mother in February 2008, which could be compared to the DNA in the remains for a match. And a few weeks ago, that evidence confirmed Rummel’s hunch beyond doubt.
One thing Rummel doesn’t know – will probably never know – is how Garcia died. The coroner’s office was unable to determine the cause of Garcia’s death due to the condition of his body. The office is still wrapping up its report, but Rummel said that he doesn’t believe any foul play was involved.
Rummel said that most of the dozens of missing persons cases the department handles are wrapped up in a short amount of time, but the Alameda Police Department has a handful of older ones they have yet to solve, some of which date back decades. Garcia’s disappearance, which was reported to the department by his family a few days after he went missing, was the most recent of those cases, Rummel said.
Rummel goes through his pile of outstanding missing persons cases every three to six months, to make sure there’s nothing new to pursue. And his computer is constantly pinging him with new information about people found in other states, who may or may not be the people he is looking for.
Garcia’s family has held a memorial service and conducted a burial for him, and as far as Rummel’s concerned, his case is closed.
“It’s nice to say we completed the report, but it’s not a happy ending,” he said.