A Missouri man is accused of brutally murdering his wife and leaving their two children to die.
Gregory Smith III, 40, is in custody for the brutal slaying of his wife in what officers with the Hazelwood Police Department are calling a “result of domestic violence.” Although the victim wasn’t named in Sunday’s press release, several media outlets, including CBS Cape Girardeau affiliate KFVS, have identified the victim as 37-year-old Cristina Garcia.
On Sunday at around 4:20 a.m., police responded to the married couple’s Lightwood Drive residence in Hazelwood, a northwestern suburb of St. Louis, after one of their minor children called 911.
“Upon arrival at the scene, officers located two children and an adult female,” said police. “The adult female was the victim of an apparent homicide.”
Authorities say they believe Smith “beat, stomped and then used a knife” to kill Garcia and doused the home in gasoline with the two children still inside.
The children, whom relatives said are nine-year-old boy and an infant girl, were taken to an area hospital for evaluation but physically unharmed.
Smith was quickly identified as a suspect but was nowhere to be found when police arrived at the scene. Police obtained at-large warrants for his arrest after conferring with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and charged him with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Hazelwood police appealed to the public, publishing a photo of Smith’s dark gray 2019 Dodge Durango. Authorities warned he was “considered possibly armed and dangerous” and cautioned the public not to approach him or the vehicle, if spotted.
Police announced his arrest Monday morning.
Photo: Hazelwood Police Department
Cristina Garcia’s loved ones created a GoFundMe page for Garcia and her children.
“Cristina’s young son, Malik, was the brave little soul who called 911 hoping someone would get there in time to save her,” the campaign stated. “Malik and his baby sister, Sama, are now left with the unspeakable memory of their mother’s last day of life.”
Relatives spoke with NBC St. Louis affiliate KSDK and said Garcia moved from Yakima, Washington, to Missouri in 2018 and worked with children at the KinderCare Learning Center in Creve Coeur, part of the greater St. Louis area. Garcia and Smith were reportedly in a 10-year relationship.
KinderCare staff told the outlet that Garcia was “one of those people who always had a smile for you.”
“She welcomed everyone — children, families and teachers — into our center, making them feel like they were part of our center family,” they said. “She was a ray of sunshine.”
Garcia’s family referred to her as a “beautiful, kind, and loving mother” and hope donations will help bring her body back home to Yakima, as well as set up a small trust for the surviving children.
“Help us create a new story for Malik and Sama,” loved ones said on the GoFundMe page. “A story where tragedy can turn into triumph.”