While leaving a voice mail in June for a recently estranged girlfriend, Randy Macedo unwittingly renewed interest in a 4-year-old missing-person case and brought scrutiny upon himself.
In that June 7 phone call, documented in court records, he put the phone aside and yelled at his 7-year-old daughter to "put the gun down" before resuming the message.
Worried for the girl's safety, the ex-girlfriend called 911, sending Sacramento County sheriff's deputies to Macedo's Arden Arcade home. They left with an assault rifle, silencer, grenade, boxes of ammunition and Macedo, 56, in handcuffs.
They would return seven weeks later this time to dig for a body.
The voice mail set in motion a series of revelations that detectives say they hope will finally shed light on what happened to another ex-girlfriend of Macedo's, Regina Garcia.
Garcia was 33 when Macedo, the father of her sixth child, reported her missing in October 2008. She has not been heard from since.
Macedo has not been charged in connection with Garcia's disappearance. However, detectives have identified him in court records and interviews with The Bee as their primary suspect.
Macedo declined an interview from the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he was booked on suspicion of assorted weapons charges and is being held in lieu of more than $1 million bail. His attorney, David Grow, did not respond to voice mails left at his Sacramento office.
Investigators found no human remains during their July excavation at the Stewart Road home Macedo shared with Garcia and his father. Still, Detective Sophia McBeth-Childs said that since taking up the case in April 2011, she has become convinced Garcia was the victim of foul play. She has given new energy to the case, one that previously by her agency's own admission fell by the wayside.
"There's something about her. I looked at her face, those pictures of her with her babies," McBeth-Childs said. "It just seems highly unlikely she would just drop out of her life and not check on anyone."
"If somebody else is responsible for her death, I hope we find that out, too," she added. "But I do believe she's dead."
A promising start in life
Regina Garcia had a quiet childhood in a rural New Mexico town, where she liked to play outdoors and pedal her bike between friends' homes, according to her older sister, Amanda Garcia.
Forty-two and still living in New Mexico, Amanda remembers her little sister as a talented artist who loved animals over the years she had chickens, rabbits, geese, a snake and dreamed of being a veterinarian or doctor.
"Anything she tried, she was good at," said Amanda. "She could've been anything she was just smart that way."
But Garcia grew bored and lost focus, her sister said. She dropped out of high school and got her GED. She attended modeling school for a time, Amanda said, but "life threw her some curveballs."
Her battle with drugs began in those years. She fell in with the wrong people, had her first of six children as a teen and later moved to California, where she veered in and out of homelessness. Largely because of her drug use, Garcia did not have custody of her five oldest children, her family said. Her sister has been raising one of Garcia's children, now 13, since he was a baby.
"She was a real soft-spoken girl, and the only harm she did was to herself," said her cousin, Robin Vigil.
With Macedo, she bore her last child, Collette, and they lived together with Macedo's grandfather on Stewart Road until her disappearance.
Garcia's family said she was a doting mother to Collette. She sewed clothes for the child, including a tutu fashioned from a wedding dress Garcia wore for a marriage that didn't last. And she worked to kick her heroin habit with methadone.
"She treated (Collette) like a queen," recalled Jerry Reinhold, 93, Macedo's grandfather and owner of the Stewart Road home.
"She'd come back to see her little girl, if nothing else. I know that," he said. "But she never did come back."
Reinhold can't remember exactly when he last saw Garcia, but knows it was sometime in October 2008. He said she told him she was leaving for good and that he assumed she and Macedo were fighting again, so tumultuous was their union.
Garcia had walked out before her disappearances occasionally documented in 911 calls Macedo made to report her missing but she typically returned shortly thereafter, according to the search warrant request McBeth-Childs wrote to gain permission for the backyard dig.
When Macedo called on Oct. 30, 2008, to report Garcia missing for the final time, the first detective on the case classified her disappearance as "voluntary."
Given her lifestyle the drug use, transiency and troubles with Macedo there would have been no obvious red flags, said Sgt. Jim Barnes, who now supervises homicide and missing-persons investigations.
"Unfortunately, with the sheer volume of (missing persons) cases, we are required to triage," Barnes said.
Barnes acknowledged, however, that follow-up work should have been done long before the case came to McBeth-Childs. He attributes that oversight to budget cuts: When the original detective went on medical leave in early 2009, he wasn't replaced.
"Did it fall through the cracks? It must have," he said.
A cold case no more
Garcia's case was filed alongside other cold cases until a deputy assigned to review them took an interest. She passed the file to McBeth-Childs and asked her to take a look.
With a few searches, the detective quickly found that Garcia had stopped all the regular contacts she previously had with the system: no job, no public assistance, no arrests, no free methadone and her family hadn't heard a word.
"She just basically disappeared from the radar," McBeth-Childs said.
According to her search warrant request, the detective focused her suspicions on Macedo. In reviewing the case file and conducting interviews, McBeth-Childs zeroed in on details and discrepancies she sees as clues.
She called Sacramento County Child Protective Services to find out whether the family had a history with the agency. The detective learned that Macedo's oldest daughter, now 17, told CPS at one point that Macedo had guns, physically abused Collette, and had "threatened to kill" Garcia, according to the affidavit.
While talking to CPS, the detective also learned the agency had received a referral from Maryhouse, a homeless women's shelter in Sacramento, in May 2008 after Garcia told a counselor there that Macedo had tried to run her over. CPS interviewed Macedo, the affidavit states, who claimed Regina "threw herself in front of his vehicle ."
McBeth-Childs reviewed comments Macedo made to deputies and to Garcia's family and found what she described as inconsistencies. Among them: He told deputies that when he saw Garcia leave for the last time, she left with her cellphone, according to the affidavit. Macedo's oldest daughter, however, told her mother Macedo's ex-wife and the detective in separate conversations that she saw Garcia's phone in the backyard.
Investigators confiscated two cellphones found in the backyard during the dig.
McBeth-Childs also cited in the search warrant request statements Macedo allegedly made to Garcia's family, such as a comment to her mother in 2009 that "he was never investigated and he could have killed Regina and buried her in the backyard."
When McBeth-Childs learned of Macedo's arrest, she went to former women in his life. His ex-wife and two ex-girlfriends including the one who left in June alleged that Macedo was violent, according to the affidavit.
His ex-wife divorced Macedo in 1998 and immediately obtained a restraining order, according to court records. Macedo later pleaded no contest to making felony threats, including threatening to "blow (her expletive) head off" during a volatile custody battle, according to Superior Court records.
Another ex-girlfriend told McBeth-Childs that when she had had enough of Macedo's abuse, she left for work one day and never went home, the affidavit states. Co-workers bought her a plane ticket; she left with only her purse.
Her family waits
When Garcia disappeared, she left behind her Social Security card, Medi-Cal card and insurance card. Those were seized during the search, according to court documents.
Also taken: Guns, knives and holsters; a computer; a diamond belonging to Garcia; cars; tactical catalogs; several books about Gerald and Charlene Gallego whose sex spree between 1978 and 1980 left 10 victims dead and a true-crime novel about a Florida woman killed in her home. In that case, neighbors heard screams but never called police.
Detectives also collected soil samples, and "biological evidence" that McBeth-Childs declined to specify.
"I'm hopeful we will be able to have physical evidence to corroborate the circumstantial information and evidence we have," she said.
Reinhold appears conflicted about his grandson. He was a good kid, Reinhold said, and has "some real good points."
But after Macedo's arrest, Reinhold got a restraining order against his grandson, in which he cited physical, financial and emotional abuse. In court records, he described one incident in which Macedo, angry that his grandfather would not pay for Internet service, allegedly zapped a stun gun in his direction, yelling, "I'm the man now!"
As for Garcia, who helped Reinhold with meals and the cleaning, Reinhold said he prays that she is safe.
"But I have my doubts," he said quietly.
In the years since she disappeared, Garcia's family has struggled to make sense of it all. Her sister holds onto a small but sad hope that drugs not death explain Garcia's absence. But family members say they can't believe she would fail to check on her mother and Collette.
Vigil, her cousin, said the family has discussed putting together a reward fund but has little money. She often wonders, what can a family do in such a nightmare?
"I wish this wasn't happening in my family, but it is. We just pray really hard and ask God to give us patience and some kind of clarity and perseverance," Vigil said. "That's all we have, anyway. We don't have her."