Man who murdered ex-girlfriend at Seattle Center sentenced for ‘horrendous’ crime
A man who stabbed his estranged girlfriend to death at Seattle Center in front of crowds of people and his young son has been sentenced to nearly 40 years behind bars.
This was a shocking crime that King County Prosecutors say was one of the worst domestic violence cases they have ever seen.
“I put this case in the same context of the really notorious and public domestic violence homicides that have happened over our state’s history,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor David Martin said.
Martin leads the office’s domestic violence unit, and says this tragedy unfolded in the middle of the Seattle Food Court at the Armory in 2018, after 28-year-old Gabrielle Garcia – who had ended things with David Lee Morris and obtained a protection order against him just days earlier – met with Morris for a visit with their 5-year-old son, Gerald.
“She had done everything right,” Martin noted. “From a parenting plan to wanting protection from his harassment, which had gone on for months leading up to this, … she wanted to have David Morris be a father to her son Gerald, she didn’t want to terminate David Morris’s parental rights. She didn’t ask to do that — she wanted an even more established relationship with Gerald.”
“She just wanted to be safe, and didn’t want to be harassed or abused,” he added.
As Garcia and her son Gerald sat at Mod Pizza with Morris, Morris continued to press Garcia about reconciling, but she refused. He had the knife he would eventually attack her with on him already, and at one point started to pull it out to kill her, but opted not to, to give her one more chance to take him back.
But as he pushed further, Garcia would have no part of it. She excused herself to use the restroom, and when she returned to the table, he attacked her in front of not just their 5-year-old son, but many others who were there at the food court and tried to help.
Employees and other witnesses jumped into action, shielding the young boy, and doing all they could to save and comfort Garcia as they waited for first responders. Garcia was later transported to Harborview Medical Center, where she passed away.
As Morris left the food court, still armed with the knife and his hands bloodied, he was followed by a civilian with a concealed carry permit who kept him held at gunpoint until police arrived, an interaction caught on cell phone video.
“Put it down, brother,” the civilian told Morris. “It’s not worth it.”
Martin calls that man a hero.
“How he handled that situation in a moment’s notice, … what he did was remarkable,” he said.
In court, defense attorneys argued for a lighter sentence, citing Morris’ PTSD as a war veteran, claiming later on that he thought he was saving his unit from a suicide bomber. But the judge wouldn’t have it, and Martin says it was the right call.
“We think David was very calculated and callous,” Martin said. “His statements afterwards were clear, unambiguous, and lengthy, and he was unapologetic for what he had done. He went on for hours telling police essentially that Gabrielle deserved it.”
Morris also never mentioned that he had thought he was saving his unit in the hours-long statement he gave to police after the killing, not to mention there was evidence he had planned this for months.
“David Morris has mental health issues, but it has been our position that he made a conscious, reasoned, clear choice, and he was the one who said that,” Martin said.
Ahead of sentencing in court Thursday, Garcia’s parents — who are now raising her little boy — told the judge what a terrible impact this has had on their grandson.
“Why did my father kill my mother? That is going to live with him for his entire life,” her father said.
In the end, the judge imposed an exceptional sentence of more than 38 years, saying that “this was a horrendous, evil, grotesque crime with many, many victims.”
Those victims include the man who held Morris at gunpoint, and more than a dozen others at the food court who tried to intervene, including one woman put herself at risk by jumping on Morris’ back forcing him to stop the attack.
“At a time where people go on social media and look at what’s going on in the community and feel like no one is helping, it just struck me that in that case every single person rushed in, risking their own lives,” Martin said. “They did not know Gabrielle, and here is everyone working at Mod Pizza runs to go help her and save her life, people throughout Seattle Center trying to stop David Morris.”
Martin sent a letter to the city of Seattle requesting that all the citizens who helped, as well as the Seattle police officers and firefighters who responded be officially recognized by the city for their care and heroism.