Jordan Joplin, 37, is scheduled to stand trial starting on Monday in Anchorage Superior Court on charges of first-degree and second-degree murder in regards to the death of Dr. Eric Garcia, a surgeon who was found deceased on March 26, 2017, in his Ketchikan home.
Joplin also faces a charge of first-degree theft in the circumstances that allegedly occurred when he was 32 years old.
He has been in custody since being arrested on a theft charge on March 31, 2017, in Washington state and subsequently extradited to Alaska.
The trial on the theft and murder charges, first scheduled for April of 2018, has been rescheduled multiple times for various reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were several factors that contributed to the delay in trial,” Alaska Department of Law Communications Director Patty Sullivan wrote in an email to the Daily News. “The pandemic obviously affected the trial date, as did changes in Mr. Joplin's representation. Lengthy trials with multiple witnesses are also generally harder to schedule as they require considerable coordination of witness, court and attorneys' schedules.”
The trial is scheduled from Monday through June 9, according to Sullivan.
“It could be shorter. It could be longer,” she wrote in an earlier email. “But jury selection will begin on May 1.”
The trial first was set to be held in Ketchikan, but in September 2018, then-Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens granted a change-of venue request made by Joplin’s attorney because of pre-trial publicity of the case.
Stephens cited 10 reasons, largely focused on the amount and detail of the media coverage, for approving the move.
“Given all of the above, the court finds that it ‘appears highly unlikely that an impartial jury can be selected’ in Ketchikan for the trial in this case, even after the voir dire process,” Stephens concluded.
Up until the current trial dates in Anchorage, the reschedulings that occurred after Stephens’ decision had been for the trial to occur in Juneau.
The investigation into the death of the 58-year-old Garcia began on March 27, 2017, when Joplin requested a welfare check on Garcia’s residence. As Joplin waited outside the residence with a female companion, Ketchikan Police Department officers discovered Garcia’s body lying on a couch in an upstairs room.
This began an investigation that eventually found alleged evidence of a theft of about $500,000 in gold and coins, in addition to 20-30 watches, computers, and high-end liquor with an insured value of $800,000.
The autopsy report for Garcia did not show evidence of foul play or an apparent cause of death, according to Ketchikan police. Toxicology tests were done, and although the results of those tests were not made available to the public, a grand jury on July 21, 2017, indicted Joplin on charges of first- and second-degree murder.
Joplin was arraigned on the charges on July 24, 2017.
The investigations indicated that Garcia and Joplin had known each other for between 1.5 years and 2 years, and that Joplin, a Washington state resident, had flown to Ketchikan to see Garcia on March 16, 2017. On March 17, Joplin allegedly made four trips with Garcia’s truck to a Ketchikan freight company, and the company shipped three containers from Ketchikan to Washington.
Joplin was back in Washington state on March 18, 2017, when he got a speeding ticket there, according to information the Daily News obtained from the Washington State Patrol.
At some point, he returned to Ketchikan before making the March 27 request for the welfare check on Garcia’s home.