Alberto Garcia charged in Gulfport slaying of 5-year-old Ja-Naya Thompson

Alberto Garcia
Alberto Garcia

GULFPORT, Mississippi (AP) — A south Mississippi man was charged Wednesday with capital murder in the slaying and sexual assault of Ja-Naya Thompson, a 5-year-old girl who was taken from an apartment complex last week, police said.

Alberto Julio Garcia, 29, of Gulfport, will be held without bond while awaiting court appearances, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said during a news conference.

Garcia was identified several days ago as a person of interest in the slaying of Thompson and has been in jail since he was arrested Friday on a burglary charge in an unrelated case.

The child was last seen outside her family’s apartment the evening of July 16. Her body was found the next day in an abandoned trailer nearby. The coroner said she was strangled to death.

“This was a crime of opportunity, and she was targeted based on her age,” Papania said.

Garcia has applied for a public defender to represent him on the burglary charge but had not been assigned one by Wednesday, said Maj. Ron Pullen of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department.

Garcia is accused of a residential burglary that occurred July 12 at 14475 Whitney Dr., the same address where Thompson’s body was found.

Pullen said Garcia is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday on the capital murder charge.

Police arrested another man, 31-year-old Julian Casper Gray, on unrelated charges last week and also identified him as a person of interest in the little girl’s slaying.

Gray is accused of the rape and sexual battery of an adult female acquaintance that occurred in April at his apartment, authorities have said.

Papania said Gray remains under investigation and is in jail.

Both Gray and Garcia are residents at The Palms Apartments, the same complex where Thompson lived with her family.