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Jesse Robert Zaugg, 34, died June 9, 2018, in a vehicle accident on Seward Highway outside of Anchorage. He was born Aug.
Court date added in murder of local surgeon
Jordan Joplin sits in Ketchikan Superior Court July 24 during his arraingment for the murder of Dr. Eric Garcia Llorens. Staff photo by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

Wearing a yellow jumpsuit, Jordan Joplin, 32, accused of murdering Dr. Eric Garcia, sat in court for his first public appearance in months.

During the omnibus hearing in Ketchikan Superior Court, an additional court date of Jan. 30 was added because of the sheer volume of evidence involved in what might be one of the biggest murder trials in Ketchikan’s history.

During Tuesday’s omnibus hearing, Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens held firm to an April 16, 2018 trial date. He noted that he is expecting the trial to last 10 to 15 days.

Dr. Garcia, 58, was one of only two surgeons in the area at the time of the alleged homicide back in March. Details have emerged since Joplin was indicted on first- and second-degree murder charges on July 21.

According to court documents, Joplin told police the last time he saw Garcia, his “close friend,” alive was on March 16.

Joplin is not a Ketchikan resident and has no ties to the town save for his periodic visits to see Garcia. Joplin claims to have left Ketchikan on March 17, after just a one-day visit.

A week later, on March 27, police discovered the body of Dr. Garcia, dead on an upstairs sofa in his Ketchikan home. No signs of foul play were noted.

Joplin, who is a resident of Washington state, was the one who called the Ketchikan Police Department to initiate a welfare check on Garcia, claiming that he hadn’t heard from him since visiting Ketchikan.

All requests by the Daily News to receive audio or written transcripts from those calls were denied.

When Joplin came back to Ketchikan for the March 27 welfare check, he was found by police to be in possession and driving the deceased’s vehicle.

Upon entering Garcia’s residence, investigators noted that a number of valuable items and goods appeared to be missing from the home.

Following a search of Garcia’s vehicle, which Joplin was driving, police found receipts tied to an Alaska-based shipping company. Police then reviewed surveillance footage from the last day Garcia was seen alive, March 17, and discovered video evidence of Joplin making four separate trips in which he unloaded Garcia’s belongings for shipping.

The shipping crates were addressed to Joplin’s Maple Valley, Washington residence.

Search warrants were executed on the shipping crates and more than two tons of valuables were discovered.

Among the items allegedly stolen:

    •    $500,000 in gold and coins.

    •    20 to 30 watches valued at $2,000 to $8,000 each.

    •    A flat screen TV.

    •    Two laptop computers.

    •    High-end liquor that was insured at $800,000.

Joplin was initially arrested on the charge of theft in the first degree following the partial recovery of Garcia’s belongings.

In addition to the allegedly stolen goods, warrants were executed on Garcia’s financial accounts. Court documents show about $40,000 was transferred from Garcia to accounts associated with Joplin. These transfers began on March 17 and continued until March 30.

One of those accounts, a PayPal account not bearing Joplin’s name, stood out. The transfer was for $900 on March 21 to an account labeled “LOGANKRUISE.”

Daily News investigation into that account and the name it was tied to indicated that Joplin appears to have used that pseudonym in the past, and used a similar pseudonym, “Logan Cruise” to work in gay pornography.

Joplin’s work in porn is prolific; he worked under a number of different pseudonyms.

The Daily News verified the authenticity of this content through several non-pornographic photography and commercial websites that show images of a shirtless Joplin with a tattoo spelling out his name — Joplin — in bold capital letters.

Amateur photographer Rich Bailey confirmed that Joplin does indeed have that tattoo after briefly meeting and photographing him at Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass in April of 2016. Bailey had no further contact with Joplin beyond that one encounter.

According to timestamps on the videos and images, it would appear as though Joplin was working in the industry during the time that he was financially involved with Garcia.

While investigating Joplin’s paper trail of crimes out of Washington, it was discovered that he received a speeding ticket in King County Washington two days after the alleged murder.

At the behest of the Daily News, Washington State Trooper Russ Winger, a public information officer, pulled the registration of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma Joplin was driving when ticketed.

According to Winger, the vehicle was registered to both Jordan Joplin and Eric Garcia Llorens under what appeared to be a co-lease agreement.

“May 9, 2016, it was entered (into the system),” Winger said. “They are the registered owners — both of them.”

That registration would indicate that the two men were in some way financially involved almost a year before the alleged homicide.

Compounding an already convoluted crime narrative, when Garcia’s body was discovered there were no obvious signs of foul play, according to police. In addition, the autopsy did not reveal a cause of death.

Yet despite these facts, more than four months later a grand jury indicted Joplin on the charges of first- and second-degree murder.

No reason for the sudden indictment was given despite multiple attempts to learn what precipitated such serious charges so many months after Joplin’s initial arrest for theft.

District Attorney Ben Hoffmeister and the Ketchikan Police Department have repeatedly declined to release a cause of death, let alone any information from the toxicology report.

In addition, the exact nature of the relationship between the two men is still unclear; all that is known is that Joplin, an outsider in the community, “has never been employed in Ketchikan, never lived in Ketchikan, and only visits Ketchikan to visit (Dr.) Garcia,” according to the superseding indictment.

Lt. Eric Mattson told the Daily News Tuesday that the two had been close for some time.

“I think they’d had a relationship; I’m just trying to think of the exact time,” Mattson said. “It’s probably been a couple years. I’m guessing a year-and-a-half, two.”

Despite all of the details, more questions than answers still remain.

“This is one of those cases we don’t get here very often,” Deputy Police Chief Josh Dossett told reporters back in March.

The Daily News reached out to Joplin’s defense for comment and did not receive a response.

Joplin is currently being held at Ketchikan Correctional Center on $200,000 bail.