Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Man Arrested in Deaths of Woman, 4 Kids


EL RENO, Okla. (Jan. 14) -

A man charged with murdering his girlfriend and her four young children was in jail in Texas early Wednesday awaiting extradition to Oklahoma while investigators searched for a motive.

Joshua Steven Durcho, 25, was arrested Tuesday night in Texas' Hamilton County after a one-vehicle crash on state Highway 36, said a Texas Department of Public Safety communications officer in Waco who declined to give his name. Authorities checking Durcho's identity determined he was wanted by Oklahoma authorities.
He was treated for minor injuries at a Hamilton, Texas, hospital and released to a state trooper who took him to the county jail, where he was being held without bail, the DPS officer said. He did not know if Durcho had an attorney.

Prosecutors charged Durcho with five counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon, a day after an El Reno police officer conducting a welfare check found Summer Garas, 25, and her children dead in their apartment in the Oklahoma City suburb. The children ranged in age from 3 to 7.

Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said investigators haven't determined a motive for the killings.

"We don't know if it's a domestic that went terribly wrong," Brown said. "I know they had their ups and downs in their relationship."

Besides Garas, daughters Kirsten Rust, 7; Autumn Rust, 6; and Evynn Garas, 3; and son Teagin Rust, 4, were killed. Brown said they weren't shot, but she didn't specify how the five were killed. An autopsy was planned, she said.

Durcho's arrest came about 24 hours after surveillance video from a truck stop in Clinton, about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City, captured his image and that of a white car authorities believe belonged to Garas.

According to court records, Durcho was convicted of car theft as a juvenile and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2003 for unlawful possession of marijuana. He was released in February 2007, records show.

"He has been in and out of jail most of his adult life," Brown said.

Summer Garas was a student at nearby Redlands Community College, where she was studying to be a legal assistant, school officials confirmed.

"From what I have heard, she was a very intelligent young woman and very well liked by her peers," college spokeswoman Meg Cannon said. "Obviously, we are going to miss her, and her family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Court records show that Summer Garas and her ex-husband Jason Garas were divorced on Dec. 10.

Crystal Franklin, Jason Garas' mother, said she was devastated by the killings.

"I'm just numb, just not knowing what to think," she said. "The kids were just wonderful."
Franklin said Summer Garas rarely locked her door and helped neighbors when they were in need.

"Summer never met an enemy," she said. "She didn't have an enemy, just loved everybody."
Teagin was fond of monster trucks and had planned to go with his grandparents to a truck show in Oklahoma City, Franklin said.

"They were just full of life, a joy to be around," she said.

Associated Press writers Regina L. Burns and Linda Franklin in Dallas and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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