NEW MEXICO — Road rage escalated into deadly violence when a motorist fired into another vehicle on a New Mexico interstate, killing a 4-year-old girl, according to newly released court documents and police records.
Illiana “Lilly” Rose Garcia was declared dead at a hospital after the incident Tuesday afternoon on Interstate 40 in Albuquerque.
Tony D. Torrez, 32, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with an open count of murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, assault with the intent to commit a violent felony, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, child abuse, child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence. He is being held on a $650,000 cash-only bond.
On Thursday, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Chris Schultz continued the bail amount, a court spokeswoman said. A public defender assisted Torrez, who appeared over a video monitor from a detention center. Torrez doesn’t yet have an attorney, the spokeswoman said.
The episode of highway rage transpired as quickly as two vehicles can cover two miles of highway.
Alan Garcia had Lilly and son Isaac, 7, in the back seat of his red Dodge Ram pickup after picking them up from school. He told police he was attempting to exit the highway to go to a grocery store, but a car crossed two lanes of traffic and blocked him.
Garcia gestured toward the other driver and then called him a “f—— idiot,” according to court documents that disclosed details of the shooting for the first time.
Torrez, whom a tipster would later identify as the other driver, pulled up beside Garcia’s window and uttered “something towards Alan but he did not know what was said,” according to police.
Torrez told an acquaintance that “he shot the girl on Interstate 40” and that Garcia’s “red truck tried to run Tony off the road,” the court documents said. The acquaintance later became an anonymous tipster to police, and his information was used in Torrez’ arrest warrant.
Garcia sped up to get away, but said he heard two shots strike his pickup truck.
“She’s bleeding,” Isaac said of Lilly.
Garcia heard a third shot after the car approached the truck’s passenger side. When Garcia slammed on his brakes, the car began to pass him.
Garcia heard a fourth shot, and the car sped away.
Garcia pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway and gave aid to his daughter. She had been shot in the head.
Two nurses stopped as they passed by. They tried to help the bleeding girl on the tailgate of the pickup: one held her head, and the other her feet, according to police and court papers.
When a sheriff’s deputy arrived in response to Garcia’s 911 call, the girl’s pupils appeared dilated, according to the police affidavit and criminal complaint filed in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.
After he was arrested, Torrez “confessed” to the shooting, said police Chief Gorden Eden.
The anonymous tipster told police that Torrez’ address on his driver’s license and registration weren’t correct, and gave two other addresses for Torrez on the same street.
It appears the family did not know the suspect, police told CNN affiliate KOAT.
The police chief expressed shock at the shooting.
“To have your child in your hands in such circumstances is going to live with the father for the rest of his life,” Eden said.
‘Beautiful big brown eyes’
In Lilly Garcia’s short life, her big brown eyes sparkled — just like her personality, her parents say. She swept into a room and filled it with laughter.
Tearful relatives clutched a picture of Lilly — smiling, her cheek perched on her hand — as they remembered her.
“My Illiana Rose had this personality that would just be over and above her age, and this smile and these beautiful big brown eyes and would just light up a room,” her mother, Veronica Garcia, told KOAT. “The first time you met her, she’d just grab your heart.”
Lilly loved dancing, singing and school. She loved to prance around in a pair of pink boots. And the girl nicknamed “Lilly Willy” was so easygoing, relatives said it’s hard to imagine their life without her.
“We wouldn’t want anybody in our shoes,” her father said.