Janet Garcia becomes emotional during her arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, April 22, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Janet Garcia becomes emotional during her arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, April 22, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett mother pleads not guilty in stabbing death of Ariel Garcia, 4

Janet Garcia, 27, appeared in court Monday unrestrained, in civilian clothes. A judge reduced her bail to $3 million.

EVERETT — An Everett woman pleaded not guilty Monday to first-degree murder in the stabbing death of her 4-year-old son, Ariel Garcia.

The charges filed Friday came three weeks after Janet Garcia’s son went missing from an Everett apartment, leading to a regional search for the boy until he was found dead along I-5 in Pierce County.

On Monday, Janet Garcia, 27, appeared without restraints, in civilian clothes, for her arraignment before Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Cindy Larsen.

Defense attorney Kathryn Fraser objected to probable cause for the murder charge, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence the killing was premeditated.

Deputy prosecutor Martina Wong argued Ariel Garcia’s stab wounds indicated the attack went on for a “prolonged” period of time, and that Janet Garcia had been exhibiting violent behavior days before her son’s death. An autopsy showed Ariel Garcia had 16 “sharp-force” wounds to the front of his body and a “cluster” of others on his upper back, according to the charges. He also had defensive wounds on his arm.

Larsen found probable cause for the murder charge.

Fraser also recommended Larsen reduce Janet Garcia’s $5 million bail set when she was arrested to $500,000.

“To categorize this as brutal and cold-hearted, it’s incorrect,” Fraser said in court, calling the case “a tragic circumstance of the failure of meaningful access to addiction treatment and mental health resources.”

The judge reduced her bail to $3 million, saying it was “unusually high.”

Days before Ariel Garcia went missing, the defendant had been abusing her oldest son, 7, according to court documents. The boy later told investigators his mother choked him, “dragged him down the stairs” and later off the bed, the charges say. He stated his head hurt because of the assaults.

On March 25, the boy’s grandmother filed for emergency guardianship of Janet Garcia’s two sons in Superior Court, citing her alcohol and drug abuse. She called the mother’s behavior “very violent and unpredictable,” according to court documents.

The following afternoon, a court commissioner approved a temporary emergency guardianship and restraining order. The order needed to be served within 48 hours.

Janet and Ariel Garcia were last seen around 7 a.m. March 27 at an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Drive in Everett, police said. The mother and son had been staying for a couple days at the apartment, which belongs to her ex-boyfriend’s mother.

At about 1:42 p.m. that day, security footage showed the defendant’s Nissan stopped along the road near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, charges say. She got out of the car and retrieved something wrapped in a white blanket. Janet Garcia walked into the forested area. She returned to her car empty-handed, prosecutors allege.

Around 6:15 p.m., Janet Garcia was seen trespassing at a group home in Ridgefield, in southwest Washington, with blood stains on her clothes, according to charges. Clark County deputies arrested her.

Police there interviewed Janet Garcia, who provided contradictory statements about where her son was, detectives wrote.

The regional search around the Pacific Northwest ended March 28, when investigators found Ariel Garcia’s body along I-5 where Janet Garcia had stopped the day prior.

Janet Garcia has no criminal history, court records show.

After entering her plea, Janet Garcia began to cry and said something quietly into the mic, but Fraser stopped her.

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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