A Bakersfield woman found not guilty of murder and instead convicted of a lesser charge in connection with setting a man on fire was sentenced Monday to time served and will be released from custody.
A jury last month convicted 36-year-old Kely Renee Garcia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Richard Joaquin Sanchez, 54. A judge on Monday sentenced Garcia to four years in prison, but she already has sufficient custody credits due to being behind bars since her arrest in November 2015 so she will serve no prison time.
Garcia's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mark Aguilar, said based on the verdict he thinks the jury believed Garcia was mentally ill and under the influence of methamphetamine, and that Sanchez was accidentally set on fire while the two were "horsing around" with gasoline inside a car.
Sanchez was also under the influence of meth, he said.
Prosecutor Courtney Lewis said she believes the circumstances warranted a second-degree murder conviction at minimum, but said she respects the jury's verdict and it's clear it thought Garcia was less culpable due to her stated mental health issues.
The bizarre incident occurred early Nov. 9, 2015, in the 900 block of 30th Street. Police were flagged down and found a man, later identified as Sanchez, rolling on the ground near a white Nissan Sentra with burns covering his body.
Officers found a red gas can at the scene and Garcia in her underwear in the process of getting dressed, according to court documents. She was detained and later arrested.
Sanchez was taken to a hospital, where he managed to answer a few questions, according to the documents. He told police he didn't know Garcia and that she was a friend of a friend.
He died two days later.
Garcia told investigators she suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. During a 2015 court appearance, she gave rambling responses to simple questions and told the judge she wanted to act as her own attorney.
She smiled and laughed during that hearing, and stuck her tongue out at a Californian photographer.
Court records show Garcia sometimes goes by the last names of Guidry, Goodry or Goody. She has a felony conviction for drug possession stemming from an October 2004 arrest, plus several misdemeanor convictions for drug-related offenses.