What started out as a normal day at Sonoma State University quickly took a turn for the worst, leaving one young man dead and another on trial for felony voluntary manslaughter. The event took place in May, but with the trial just beginning more details are making their way out.
As finals week was beginning and most students were preparing themselves to go home for the summer, Steven John Garcia, 26, was brutally murdered in a dorm room on campus. Tyler Bratton, 20 , stabbed Garcia to death in the bathroom of the dorm in Sauvignon Village on the night of May 13th.
The dorm room belonged to student Riley O’Rourke, who was finishing out her freshman year at the university. According to the Press Democrat, she testified that her friend Bratton killed Garcia while trying to defend himself inside the residence. Other witnesses testified that Garcia was indeed an intruder and was forcing his way in to confront O’Rourke.
Sophomore Rebecca Wynn, who lived underneath the suite where the murder took place, remembers the night clear as day. She first heard about the news of the stabbing while she was at dinner with a few fellow students. Her suitemate called her in a panic, whispering that there was a stabbing and to come home. Wynn rushed back to campus and had to sneak through her backdoor because every other entrance was roped off with caution tape with rigorous police activity. “I was completely shocked when it all happened. I didn’t really believe it was true until the news started to report on it.” Wynn went on to say she was glad it wasn’t a Sonoma State student who commited the murder because that would have changed her perspective of the campus so much more. “ The incident did make me think our campus was a bit unsafe, and the saddest part is this wasn’t the first time there was a large police activity in the Sauvignon Village this year,” she said.
According to CBS San Francisco, the incident started after O’Rourke let a friend, Rebecca Stjern, live with her, because she was going through a hard time and had nowhere else to live due to a criminal past. Stjern was living in the suite without the universities knowledge and even had a keycard to get in whenever she pleased. According to O’Rourke’s testimony at the preliminary hearing at the Sonoma County Superior Court, her and Stjern had a falling out the night before after going to a party in Santa Rosa. They had gone to hangout with a few friends and O’Rourke said she believes that she was drugged because she got extremely intoxicated. Stjern then left O’Rourke at the friend’s residence and took her car without proper permission. This is was caused the two to get into an argument that led to the fatal stabbing.
O’Rourke stated in her testimony that Stjern and Garcia forced their way into the dorm after she had told them not to come back to the residence. After the couple abruptly entered the dorm, Bratton tried to keep the bedroom door closed with his body weight. They were able to gain entry where O’Rourke stated that Garcia began to choke Bratton which led Bratton to stab him in the leg. The two then continue the struggle into the bathroom where Garcia was fatally stabbed six times. Frightened, Bratton and O’Rourke rushed to the closet laundry room and called for police to come. Police arrived shortly after the call where they arrested Bratton on the spot.
Tyler Bratton is now being tried for the voluntary manslaughter of Steven Garcia where he is stating it was all in self defense. Defense attorney Lynette Brown along with Deputy District Attorney Chris Brown, are trying to determine if Bratton was using self defense, but did it in too forceful of a way. After listening to testimony, a judge ordered back in July that Bratton must stand trial to determine his guilt. No further updates have been given.