VICTORVILLE — For bereaved mom Katie Tagle’s supporters, Judge Robert Lemkau represents the worst in the family-court system. On Jan. 21 in Victorville, Tagle asked him to revoke Stephen Garcia’s unsupervised partial custody of their son, Wyatt.

She petitioned for the judge to give Garcia supervised visitations and wanted him to take a parenting class.

As evidence that Garcia was a danger to their son, she presented a short story e-mailed to her that described her relationship with Garcia in detail and ended with the main character killing their baby and himself beside a lake.

Tagle presented text messages from Garcia about taking Wyatt to the lake and asking Tagle to join them at the lake right after the story was sent.
Also in the stack of evidence was a text message from Garcia admitting he had hit Tagle and another demanding she return to him and asking her, “How long before I do something stupid?”

Based on the e-mail and texts, a Morongo Basin sheriff’s deputy had convinced Judge David Mazurek, in the Joshua Tree courthouse, to sign an emergency restraining order against Garcia.

They took the deputy’s report to Lemkau, as well as other reports from instances when Tagle said Garcia harassed her, pushed her down and stole her mobile phone.

After other court appearances when judges, including Mazurek, said they didn’t see enough evidence to back up her claims of domestic violence and threats, Tagle and her family thought they finally had the proof they needed.

“I didn’t even bring Wyatt to Victorville that day,” Tagle recalled. “I thought, there’s no way I’m going to have to give him up.”

Instead, Lemkau accused Tagle of lying and ordered her to give Wyatt to Garcia immediately.

Ten days later, Wyatt and Garcia were dead.

Still in mourning for the infant, Tagle and her family have thrown their support behind a deputy district attorney, James Hosking, who filed to run against Lemkau June 8 after hearing Tagle’s story.

“We urge everyone in San Bernardino County to vote for James Hosking,” Brown said, with Tagle adding, “Register and vote!”

The family is quick to say Hosking hasn’t been using them for his own purpose. “He doesn’t want to seem like he’s exploiting us, but we keep putting ourselves into his campaign,” Brown said.

“Getting him in office is a step forward, so he can help change the courts,” Tagle added.

Lemkau has not responded to any requests for comment, including several from the Hi-Desert Star, except for one interview he gave an Associated Press reporter.

He told the reporter he was “crushed” by the murder-suicide and couldn’t sleep for a week after hearing the news.

“The worst nightmare of a judge,” he told Paul Elias, “is to deny a restraining order and there are catastrophic results.”

But he also stood by his decision to allow Garcia unsupervised custody, saying it was based on the evidence before him.

“It’s not like I released a psychopath onto the street — he was already on the street,” he said.

Lemkau was not the first judge to tell Tagle she was making up allegations.

In the Joshua Tree court Jan. 12, Mazurek denied Tagle’s request for a restraining order against Garcia, using Garcia’s confession that he hit Tagle.

Mazurek implied Tagle had ulterior motives for alleging domestic violence.

“I get concerned when there’s a pending child custody and visitation issue and in between that, one party or the other claims that there’s some violence in between.

“It raises the court’s eyebrows because based on my experience, it’s a way for one party to try to gain an advantage over the other,” he said, according to the transcripts.

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