Crash Survivor Accuses Abuse
Nov. 20, 1997
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A woman who survived a 1985 airline crash says a man gained her confidence by telling her: ``My parents died in a plane crash.''
Anita Garcia said she would later learn that Randolph Gonzalez lied to get some of the $4 million she collected after the accident.
Police claim Gonzalez, who lived under the alias Randy Zapporoli, is a fortune hunter who drugged, abused and intimidated Ms. Garcia this summer into marrying him. She says she was a captive for 18 days until she called her parents for help in a moment of self-control.
``It was a nightmare _ I was scared for my life and for my family,'' she said Wednesday, her hands trembling as she wiped away tears.
Adding to her horror are the numerous encounters the two have had since Gonzalez was arrested Aug. 17 and charged with false imprisonment and battery. He lives less than a mile away from her home on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Gonzalez was out on $50,000 bail and placed under house arrest until sheriff's detectives arrested him again Tuesday and added charges of extortion, grand theft and possession of a controlled substance. He denies the charges and was being held Wednesday on $4,600 bond, meaning he could be out at any time.
Gonzalez's attorney, Patrick Scott, told The Miami Herald: ``It was a completely voluntary relationship and he never coerced her.''
Ms. Garcia has no doubt Gonzalez targeted her in order to get at her money, which she won for injuries suffered in the Aug. 2, 1985, crash of Delta Flight 191 in Dallas that killed 137.
She was one of 27 who survived, although her foot was nearly severed and damage to her back required 26 operations. She almost died from complications to a damaged kidney.
Ms. Garcia met Gonzalez on a festive night, July 28. She was with friends at a private club in Fort Lauderdale. He showed up with some mutual acquaintances.
``His first words were, `My parents died in a plane crash,''' she recalled. ``The only reason I trusted him was because he was with people who I knew.''
In reality, Gonzalez's mother lived in Costa Rica while his father took him and his brother to New York in 1971 and put them up for adoption the following year.
Gonzalez invited himself to Ms. Garcia's home the day after they met. She told police he insisted on cooking supper for her. Soon after she began feeling a dizziness _ from which she didn't emerge for weeks.
Investigators believe Gonzalez had begun feeding her the prescription drug Xanax, commonly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Taken in large quantities, experts say, it can be hypnotic and incapacitating.
Then Gonzalez allegedly used her credit card to buy an engagement ring and the two flew to Las Vegas to marry.
``I was in a fog,'' Ms. Garcia said. ``It was terrifying.''
During the nearly three weeks he held Ms. Garcia, police say Gonzalez took $64,000 in cash, jewelry and other possessions.
Ms. Garcia said she called her parents on Aug. 17, a few hours after Gonzalez beat her.
According to investigative records, Gonzalez has been convicted twice before of battery on women and false imprisonment. There was a domestic violence restraining order issued against him one behalf of another woman in October.
Detective Bill Walker, who interviewed Ms. Garcia said the drugs had clouded her memory and her story was so bizarre it took months to piece together.
Ms. Garcia said the pain she suffered after the plane crash was nothing compared to the nearly three week imprisonment by Gonzalez.
``The plane crash was an accident,'' she said. ``This was an evil, well thought-out plan.''