The suspects in the 2015 strangulation death of a 17-year-old girl have pleaded guilty to the brutal crime.
Samantha Wright, 23, and Shannon Yager, 44, both were charged with capital murder in the slaying of 17-year-old Alexis Garcia, a Birmingham teen whose body was found in Blount County, face down and partially nude in an area off Tucker Mountain Road in Remlap.
Garcia was reported missing on March 2, 2015. She was last seen in public with Wright, of Helena, at Walmart around midnight on March 1, 2015. Garcia’s body was recovered 17 days.
Jury selection was to begin Feb. 6, but Wright and Yager on Wednesday instead entered guilty pleas to murder. Garcia’s mother was in the courtroom and supported prosecutors in the plea arrangement. They have been sentenced to 35 years each in state prison, said Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey.
According to court records, Garcia died of asphyxia due to strangulation. Wright was Garcia’s best friend, and Yager was Wright’s boyfriend.
Garcia’s mother filed a missing person’s report with the Birmingham Police Department on March 5. On Monday, March 9, Blount County sheriff’s investigator Scott Kanaday got a call from Wright’s father, saying she had called him and said she woke up in a room and was covered in blood. Wright told her father she didn’t know where she was because she had blacked out, according an affidavit.
Wright went on to tell her father that she and her boyfriend, Yager, along with Garcia, had been walking through the woods and she believed something bad had happened to Garcia, and that she no longer knew the whereabouts of Garcia or Yager. She hung up the phone, and her father told investigators he was no longer able to reach her.
Sometime after that, Garcia’s mother called sheriff’s investigators and told them there were some juveniles in Blount County with information about the case. On March 15, then-Deputy Mark Moon, who is now Blount County sheriff, went to a Locust Fork home and again was told that two juveniles had information about Garcia’s disappearance.
Those two teens, ages 14 and 13, told Moon that Wright told them she had done something she was possibly going to regret – that she had possibly killed someone, according to the affidavit. Wright told them Garcia had gotten naked in the back of her car and was making advances toward Yager. Wright said she got mad and beat Garcia unconscious, records show.
Wright said she and Yager then took Garcia into the woods at the Vulcan Material sign on Tucker Mountain Road. Wright threatened to kill the teens if they told anyone.
On March 16, investigators received information that Yager and Wright were in St. Clair County. Yager, who was from Locust Fork, had two outstanding warrants out of Blount County and was taken into custody. Wright went voluntarily with Yager to the county jail.
When investigators interviewed Wright, she told them she, Garcia and Yager had used multiple drugs that night, including meth and heroin. They went to Tucker Mountain Road in Wright’s Honda Accord and Wright told detectives she then passed out. She said when she woke up, Garcia was taking off her clothes and making advances on Yager. The affidavit says Wright gave multiple accounts of what happened after that.
During the interview with lawmen, Wright admitted that she was wearing Garcia’s jeans and shoes. Garcia’s jeans, shoes and underwear were missing when authorities found her body.
Yager was also interviewed. He, too, gave differing accounts of what happened but said that there was an altercation between Garcia and Wright when Garcia began to take off her clothes.
He said the last time he saw Garcia she was near the car on Tucker Mountain Road. Sheriff’s deputies found Wright’s Accord and towed it for evidence.
Garcia’s body was discovered about 10 a.m. Thursday, March 19, and her mom notified.
The case was investigated Blount County Sheriff’s Office. Casey commended the work of investigator Jeff Kirkland, Scott Kanaday, and Fred Cochran.
“Alexis Garcia was such a beautiful young lady. It was beyond tragic for her life to be taken from her so violently and at such a young age,’’ Casey said. “The criminal justice system cannot bring Alexis back to her family. But I hope her family can find some peace knowing that Samantha Wright and Shannon Yager will be held accountable for Alexis’s death.”