GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A slain mother of five was remembered as a caring mother, daughter and sister whose potential was destroyed as her killer was sentenced Thursday to decades in prison.
Yenly Garcia, 45, received between 25 and 50 years behind bars for felony firearms and second-degree murder in the death of Mollie Schmidt.
“Mollie was an amazing person. She always wanted to help. She was there for anybody, no matter what. She loved her children. And she had so many goals she wanted to accomplish that he took from her,” her sister Kristy Cook said at the sentencing hearing, pointing at Garcia.
“You can’t look me in the eye,” Cook told him. “You murdered my sister and you can’t look me in the eye.
“That right there,” Cook continued, turning back to the judge. “He just left her. Didn’t try to get any help. He took off. When he was arrested, his plea deal was no contest. He has no remorse. He can’t even look me in the eye. He doesn’t care about what he’s done.”
“We looked for 10 days to find her. You don’t know what that does to a person. You can’t believe it,” Schmidt’s father Mike O’Meara told the court.
After the killing, Garcia fled to Mexico, where he was arrested in September 2022. His booking photo, Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Curtis pointed out to the court, showed he had a fresh haircut.
“So that just tells this court what this man’s priorities are,” Curtis said.
Schmidt, who would have turned 35 last week, left behind five children.
“She was a good mom. She was a good daughter,” her father said.
O’Meara told the court that when he got a tattoo with his daughter’s name on it, he explained to the tattoo artist what it was for.
“I want to know if (Garcia’s) going to tell them when he gets her teardrop tattooed on his face, if he’s going to tell the tattoo artist why he got it,” he said.
Cook, Schmidt’s sister, wept as she read a prepared statement to the court.
“I remember the day that Mollie was born. I got a sticker from the hospital with a little pink bear on it that said, ‘It’s a girl.’ I wore that sticker for weeks, taped it on towards the end when it wouldn’t stick anymore. I was so excited to be her big sister,” she said. “She often felt like my child, and she was always my best friend. I knew no matter what that we always had each other and I thought it would always be that way.”
She called the loss of her sister “devastating” and “crushing, a nightmare that I will never wake up from.” She said the pain of Schmidt’s death has not lessened with time.
“We didn’t only lose something big, we also lost a million little things: never getting to see her big, beautiful smile again or hear her goofy laugh she did when something was really funny,” Cook said. “No more hugs or long phone calls. No more hearing her voice. It’s all gone. It’s all gone forever.”
She mourned for what Schmidt’s children have lost, saying some are too young to remember her.
Garcia’s attorney, Mark Hunting, acknowledged the “senseless” loss of life and expressed sympathy for Schmidt’s loved ones. But he said his client “is not the monster that he is portrayed as in the presentence report, nor is he the monster that I think people believe him to be.”
Standing next to Hunting, Garcia began to cry. Hunting said that was common during their meetings over the last year.
“I never got the impression, still don’t get the impression, that those tears are for himself, for any sorrow for himself, for any sadness for himself,” Hunting said. “Instead, I think those tears are genuine tears of regret, remorse, loss, not only as it pertains to Mollie but also as it pertains to his own family and those that care about him.”
Garcia pleaded no contest in August under the terms of a plea agreement, which called for a minimum of 25 years in prison. Cook asked the judge to ensure that was the minimum, not the maximum.
“He has sentenced Mollie to death and a lifetime of pain to all the rest of us. Twenty-five years isn’t enough for the damage that he has done,” she said.
Judge Scott Noto said he would honor the terms of the plea deal, but also took a moment to admonish Garcia:
“One letter that I received I think sums up this case the best,” the judge said after handing down the sentence. “The first sentence asks a question: ‘What kind of a coward takes the life a 97-pound woman?’ I can’t think of a better way to characterize this matter.”
Garcia received credit for 391 days served. He must also pay $1,075 in restitution to Schmidt’s father and about $4,700 to the state of Michigan, along with more than $1,000 in various court costs and fees. His attorney said that if he ever does get out of prison, he will be leaving the United States, never to return.
Given the chance to address the court, Garcia only cried and shook his head.