Garcia owned the sailboat with her then 51-year-old husband, John. It was Nikki who informed his wife of the affair. Betty Jo feared Nikki would shoot her if she tried to confront Nikki on her own, since there were weapons onboard (a shotgun, a handgun, and an AK-47, along with rounds of ammunition) to which Nikki could apparently gain access.
When police got to the Halifax Harbor Marina, they found the burning sailboat anchored 20 feet from the dock, mooring lines untethered. And they heard what sounded like ammunition exploding on the flaming vessel. Here is where the story takes another hard-to-believe turn.
Neither the Daytona Beach police nor the fire department has a rescue boat
at its disposal. They used a P.A. system
in an attempt to contact Nikki, and deployed a helicopter and drone, but didn’t spot her. As cops stood on the dock watching the boat burn, Betty Jo Garcia showed up and tossed a photograph of her and her husband into the harbor.
Nine hours later, nearing noon on June 5, police reached the boat, having received marine assistance from the Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife.
They found the 1979 Morgan Craft sailboat severely damaged, but there was no sign of Nikki.
The Garcias had informed police that Nikki talked of suicide during phone calls she’d placed to them, after John Garcia told her he wanted to end their affair. So for five days, the local news media ran with stories about a “scorned and suicidal woman” (to quote the Daytona Beach News-Journal) who’d set a boat on fire and then disappeared.
Finally, police found Nikki, under a large cushion inside the burned sailboat, which had been moved back to its slip. Somehow they’d missed her during the initial search.
An autopsy found soot in her lungs and concluded she died of smoke inhalation.
In the days after Nikki’s death had been confirmed, I felt shock, sorrow, and anger.
Her face kept coming into my mind, and memories from our club days. I thought of her three daughters, and Nikki’s own mother, who I’d seen in photos. I got angry at the thought of things reaching a state with Nikki’s mental health where she urgently needed help to stay alive but it didn’t come. I got angry at the thought of her body sitting on that wrecked boat for days. And I got angry at Facebook.
Meanwhile, the video remained on Nikki’s timeline. She had a private account, so despite press coverage of the video, only a limited number of people viewed it. Still, it seemed so wrong — obscene, even — that a video made by a desperate, mentally ill woman in the last seconds of her life could be watched.
I flagged the video to Facebook, and received an auto-reply for reports of platform abuse encouraging me to visit the Help Center to learn more.
Nikki’s birthday arrived in September. She would have turned 32. People posted messages on her Facebook timeline wishing her a good day in heaven.
The video was still up.
Shortly before Christmas, when I reported the video to Facebook once again and nothing happened, I sent an email to the company’s press department. A week later, I got a response with an offer of a phone call.