Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/26/2010 05:37:17 PM PDT
RANCHO CUCAMONGA – A Yucca Valley mother, whose 9-month-old son was killed by the boy’s father following a controversial visitation ruling, spoke out in front of the West Valley Superior Court Wednesday morning, urging voters not to back a judge on the June ballot.
Katie Tagle was denied a request for an emergency restraining order against her ex-boyfriend by Judge Robert Lemkau, a January ruling that took place 10 days before Tagle’s son was shot dead.
“Basically, nobody is safe when they go to (Lemkau’s) courtroom,” said Tagle.
Lemkau, a sitting judge appointed in 2007, will face Deputy District Attorney James Hosking in the June 8 election. Lemkau’s opponents, including Tagle, are supporting Hosking, a narcotics and auto theft prosecutor.
In January, Tagle’s ex-boyfriend, Stephen Garcia, shot and killed their son, Wyatt, and then committed suicide. The tragedy followed a ruling by the Victorville Superior Court judge, who said there wasn’t enough evidence at the time to prove Garcia was a threat.
The controversial decision has invited public and media scrutiny of the superior court elections and spawned at least two groups lambasting Lemkau – the Lemkau Must Go Community Coalition and Citizens to Remove Judge Robert Lemkau.
Holding up signs that read “What if it was your child?” and “It’s too late for sorry,” a crowd of about 30 rallied outside the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse on Wednesday.
“I’m angry,” Tagle said. “Wyatt died too quickly.”
It was the second such courthouse rally since the murder-suicide. In March, about 100 protestors showed up in front of the Victorville Superior Court.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Lemkau said he has been “very traumatized” by the outcome of the case but stood by his ruling.
“Based on the same fact pattern, I would rule the same,” he said.
Tagle had felt threatened by two e-mails signed by “John Hancock” when she requested the restraining order against Garcia. Lemkau said it was a he-said, she-said situation that was impossible to verify. He even told Tagle he suspected she was lying.
Lemkau, who has since apologized to Tagle, said it was unfair for opponents to call him a “baby killer.”
“I did not kill anyone,” Lemkau said. “It’s Stephen Garcia responsible for killing baby Wyatt and himself. I did not pull a trigger.”
Lemkau – who has served more than three decades as a local prosecutor including 13 years prosecuting child molesters, child murderers and other crimes against children – said he was the third judge to deny requests by Tagle for a retraining order. He said he’s doubtful that such an order could have prevented the killings.
“A restraining order is not a magic shield,” Lemkau said. “Stephen Garcia was a suicidal, homicidal individual. He would not have been dissuaded by a restraining order.”
But Tagle and her supporters disagree and believe justice can only be served if Lemkau is removed.
Diana Persinger, Tagle’s sister-in-law, brought her twin daughters to the courthouse protest. The girls were Wyatt’s cousins and former playmates.
“He was their favorite cousin during the short time he was on this earth,” Persinger said. “Unfortunately, they’ll never remember their relationship with Wyatt.”
Persinger hopes the protest will inform San Bernardino County voters about the case.
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