Charge, bond set for suspect in religious vandalism attack

McALLEN — A woman accused in the high-profile vandalizing of religious sites in Hidalgo County was arraigned here Wednesday afternoon.

Erica Garza, seen on a video screen, becomes beligerent during her arraignment Wednesday at the McAllen Police Department.
(Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Erica Yme Garza, 38, of McAllen was brought before municipal court Judge Kathleen Henley just before 2 p.m. As she entered the arraignment room, Garza appeared to be upset and shouted at someone outside of the room. Then, as Henley attempted to read the accused her rights, a visibly agitated Garza pointed her finger at the judge while shouting at her.

Garza was then escorted out of the room, temporarily interrupting the proceeding. At 2:24 p.m., a much calmer Garza was brought back into the room, and Henley was able to continue with the proceeding.

Henley set Garza’s bond at $15,000 on a criminal mischief charge, a state jail felony, for $10,000 in damage caused to the Temple Emanuel synagogue in McAllen, one of three religious sites Garza is suspected of vandalizing.

The judge also informed Garza that she can be submitted to inpatient treatment and granted a personal recognizance bond.

Lt. Joel Morales of the McAllen Police Department said that investigators believe she’s also connected to two other similar cases involving a Hindu temple in Edinburg — the Shri Nanak Center & Shiv Shakti Temple — and the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan.

All three houses of worship were found to be vandalized Tuesday morning with several references of the occult and anti-Semitic imagery spray-painted on the front walls and doors with similar misspellings and odd variations.

In a news release from the Edinburg Police Department, authorities there acknowledged the similarities between the three cases, but did not confirm whether Garza is specifically suspected in the Hindu temple case.

“ At this time, McAllen PD does have one female in custody who allegedly vandalized the Temple Emanuel in McAllen. There are similarities to the vandalism on the Temple in Edinburg, however, it has not been confirmed if she is the same suspect,” the release read. “It is unknown at this time if there are multiple suspects involved. The motive for this incident is also unknown.”

Edinburg police also said the case remains under investigation.

In San Juan, police Chief Juan Gonzalez anticipated Garza being arraigned in the basilica case at some point following her arraignment in McAllen. The time and date for Garza’s arraignment in San Juan have not been confirmed as of press time.

If convicted of the felony criminal mischief charge in McAllen, Garza could face punishment of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.