Trial starts for two men in robbery, deadly beating of elderly woman

SAN BERNARDINO — Prosecutors delivered their opening remarks Monday in the trial for two young men who repeatedly struck an elderly San Bernardino woman with hammers while ransacking her home for money and other valuables.

“Storma Del’Andrae, who is 87 years old, was murdered for a handful of cash, a suitcase and some costume jewelry,” said Deputy District Attorney Tristan Svare. “That’s what this case is all about.”

The prosecution’s opening remarks came just prior to witness testimony in San Bernardino Superior Court. Defense lawyers reserved their statements for later in the trial. Each defendant has his own jury.

Mike Garcia Jr. and his friend, Cesar Pulido, were just 16 years old in February 2008, when prosecutors allege they broke into Del’Andrae’s mobile home on Highland Avenue at night and hit the woman’s head and hands with ball-peen and claw hammers.

Prosecutors charged both teens as adults.

Garcia, now 20, knew the victim from church and had performed yard work for her, Svare told jurors. But the two had a falling out after Garcia stole from her, and he didn’t work for her anymore.

Still, Garcia knew Del’Andrae kept cash and valuables at her home. The two teens planned to rob her, and they took hammers “to silence her,” Svare said.

After riding bikes to Del’Andrae’s residence, Garcia checked for an open door. The mobile home was locked, so Pulido, now 19, squeezed through a bathroom window, fell and let Garcia inside.

The noise awakened Del’Andrae, who was still in her nightgown when she confronted the two teens. Garcia and Pulido struck the woman several times with the hammers, Svare said.

Police say the defendants ransacked the mobile home, turning over drawers and sifting through her personal belongings. The teens found a safe but couldn’t open it. They also tried to start a car in the driveway, but it didn’t start.

Garcia and Pulido grabbed a suitcase, loaded it and left, say prosecutors. They walked to a nearby Chevron station, bought soda and called a cab.

A longtime friend of Del’Andrae found her body the next day. She lived for a couple weeks longer, but then succumbed to her injuries on Feb. 29, 2008.

A March 2008 obituary published in The Sun reads: Born in October 1910, Del’Andrae’s first successes were in the entertainment world, followed by modeling in various states. Her eternally fashionable apparel, classic looks and beauty were obvious, it continues.

“Her cupboard held silver service, crystal and china. To dine at Storma’s table was an unforgettable event,” the obituary states. She could converse in several languages, and her resume listed degrees from University of Mexico and Cornell University.

Garcia and Pulido are represented by Arthur Katz and H. Charles Smith. The defendants face charges of murder, robbery, burglary, elder abuse, assault and receiving stolen property. If convicted, they could face up to life in state prison.

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