October trial set for woman accused of taking part in crime spre - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

October trial set for woman accused of taking part in crime spree with retired firefighter

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An Oct. 23 trial date was set Wednesday for a young woman accused of taking part in a spree of armed holdups and assaults with her 40-year-old husband, a former firefighter who ended up being killed in a Halloween-night gunbattle with San Diego police.

Cindy Altamirano Garcia, 18, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, attempted murder of a peace officer and other counts, including an allegation that she personally used a gun. She was arrested Oct. 31 at the scene of the shootout that claimed her husband's life.

Philip Martin Hernandez, a former Cal Fire firefighter in Blythe who retired last July, started dating Garcia when she was 16. As a result, at the time of his death he was facing four felony counts of having sex with a minor.

Blythe police Detective Timothy Cornwell testified at a preliminary hearing earlier this month that Garcia called authorities last May, saying she was "uncomfortable" living with Hernandez because he was possessive and that she wanted to go home to National City.

Garcia told the detective that she had moved to Blythe with Hernandez after he promised to send her to photography school.

Cornwell said Hernandez told him that he was having consensual sex with Garcia in an "arranged marriage."

Renato Palma testified that he was carjacked by Hernandez and Garcia about 1:20 p.m. last Oct. 29 as he slept in his vehicle. Palma said Hernandez pointed a gun at his head and ordered him to lie down on the front seat.

The victim said Garcia opened the passenger door and held what felt like a gun to his head, telling Hernandez, "If he (Palma) hurts me, I'll shoot him."

Palma said Garcia handcuffed him and pulled him out of his car, then she and Hernandez drove away after setting their car on fire.

Officers in San Diego investigating a series of armed robberies and firearm assaults were tailing a white van occupied by the suspects on Halloween night when the driver pulled over on Harbor Drive, near Cesar Chavez Parkway, police said.

Hernandez jumped out of the vehicle and began shooting at the patrol personnel with a rifle, prompting them to return fire. Hernandez died at the scene.

Garcia, who also had a gun, got out of a passenger-side door and was arrested, said Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber. She and Hernandez were both wearing law enforcement-style vests at the time of the 9:30 p.m. shootout, according to police.

Deputy Public Defender Courtney Cutter told a judge that Garcia was not a willing participant in the conspiracy and did not have the intent that Hernandez did.

Cutter said that Garcia loved Hernandez and was just "along for the ride."

Garcia will be back in court May 28 for a readiness conference.

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