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Woman accused of trying to kill disabled sons

A witness says he saw her inside a car with a hose running to the exhaust pipe. The twins survived, and she’s in jail.

Published May 31, 2006

Krystal Garza.

CRYSTAL RIVER — Darrin Layton had an urgent message for his girlfriend’s neighbor:
Keep your kids away from her house, Krystal has gone off again.

It was 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Ninety minutes later, Krystal Garza was under arrest after a passing motorist saw her inside a car with a hose running to the exhaust pipe.

Authorities said she was thwarted while trying to kill herself and her 14-year-old twin sons, both of whom have cerebral palsy and cannot walk.

Garza and the boys survived the incident and were taken to local hospitals and released.

Garza, 37, was booked into the Citrus County jail on two counts of attempted murder. The Department of Children and Families took the boys.

“I know she had her problems,’’ said Bill Hawks, the neighbor. “But I never thought she’d try to harm one of those kids.’’

The frenzy of activity that led to Garza’s arrest began a little after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Garza’s former husband, Enrique, called Citrus officials from Texas, where he lives. He said Garza had threatened over the phone to kill herself and their twin boys, Jeremy and Jacob.

The boys have extremely limited verbal and sign language skills. Two words in their small vocabulary: mom and help.
Citrus dispatchers called Garza on her cell phone. She hung up. They called again and got voicemail.

Deputies arrived at Garza’s house in Homosassa, a small community south of Crystal River, about 7:18 p.m. No one was home.

About that time, Garza’s niece, Jennifer Arnold, 16, received a call from her mom.

“Your Aunt Krystal’s gone on a suicide path,’’ she told Jennifer. Neighbors feared Garza may have given her boys “magic Kool-Aid.’’
Less than 10 minutes later, a motorist called 911. A woman parked on the side of the road had a hose  running between the interior and the tail pipe.

“I ain’t never seen nothing like this before in my life,’’ the caller said. “I know what they’re trying to do.’’

When the man turned around to see what was happening, Garza drove off.

Deputies spotted the car, a gray Oldsmobile. Garza fled but didn’t get far.

An open box of Bud Lite sat on the passenger side. In the back was a pink and purple key chain: “I (heart) U mom,’’ it read.
As the news spread Wednesday, people who knew Garza gave conflicting descriptions. Some said she was an energetic mom who does her best to raise two sets of twins --- besides the boys, Garza has twin 5-year-old girls with her boyfriend, Darrin Layton.

Other people said Garza seemed unstable and overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for two boys with cerebral palsy.

“She was an advocate for her children,’’ said Lynn Weed, a Citrus school teacher who has taught Jeremy and Jacob for six years . “She made sure they got everything.’’

When Jeremy broke his glasses, Garza immediately bought him a new pair. She got them special chairs so they wouldn’t slip and hurt themselves during baths. She planned to arrange for new wheelchairs this summer.

Garza met regularly with teachers to discuss the boys’ progress at CREST, a small public school for children with mental and physical disabilities.
School officials said the boys are likable and friendly. Using sign language, they ask for hugs and say “I love you’’ to staffers. They always ask for mom, Weed said.

Neither boy can walk.

In the past year, Weed said Garza started showing signs of distress. She stopped showing up at school functions.

Garza told Weed she was having “a lot of personal problems with her boyfriend.’’ She also told Weed she worried about her twin daughters, who will start school in the fall.

Garza said nothing to alarm Weed. But neighbors have been concerned for years because of her erratic behavior and bouts of heavy drinking.

They realized the house at 6949 W Sedate Court was trouble, but they tried to mind their own business.

Garza was arrested in 2002, accused of hitting Layton. The arrest report said she was extremely intoxicated. Garza got probation.

Despite the many conflicts and Garza’s frequent drinking, neighbors said they couldn’t imagine her hurting her kids.

“She was crazy about them,’’ said neighbor Katie Wells, 15, who sometimes baby sitting for Garza. “She loved on them the same way you’d love on a regular kid.’’

The boys always seemed well taken-care of, Katie added. They liked to look out the window and would sometimes crawl to the door and answer it.

Krystal played music for them, and they hummed along.

“It doesn’t excuse it, but I think she must have been overwhelmed,’’ said Katie’s mom, Betty Henley. “Somebody should have seen something was going on, that the woman was tired, worn out and at her wit’s end.’’

Times staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this report.


[Last modified May 31, 2006, 23:44:15]

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