Washington man sentenced to 99 years for murder of Ketchikan surgeon

a murderer
Jordan Joplin is escorted out of a Ketchikan courtroom following sentencing. April 9, 2024 (Jack Darrell/KRBD)

A Superior Court judge sentenced a Washington man Tuesday to 99 years in prison for murdering a prominent Ketchikan surgeon.

Judge Michael Wolverton handed down the maximum possible sentence to 39-year-old Jordan Joplin for the murder, saying it was one of the most “brazen and craven” acts he’d seen in his 40 years on the bench.

The front row of the courtroom was packed with Eric Garcia’s family and friends. They wore shiny, maroon ribbons pinned to their chests. 

Eric’s brother, Saul Garcia, was the first to take the stand.

He described Eric as a loving brother and skillful surgeon. He remembered being approached at a Mexican restaurant in town by a group of Spanish-speaking workers after Eric’s death. They said his brother had provided them medicine when they couldn’t afford it.

“They recounted how comfortable they felt to have access to a Spanish-speaking medical professional, that related to their culture. They were worried about the future of their medical care, as they didn’t feel comfortable speaking English,” Saul said.

Garcia was a prominent surgeon in Southeast Alaska. He lived in Ketchikan but performed surgeries for smaller communities in the region. Last year, Joplin was found guilty of murdering the surgeon.

The two men were in a romantic relationship in the years leading up to Garcia’s murder. In 2017, Joplin administered a fatal dose of morphine and other drugs to Garcia and loaded three large shipping containers with nearly 2 tons of Garcia’s expensive personal belongings to send back to the lower 48.

Saul Garcia said in the six years since his brother’s death, the family has been swimming through a disorienting fog of grief. 

“I felt guilty by not knowing Eric had been suffering from domestic abuse. How did I not not know that? How did I not pick up on it? Why didn’t I call more frequently?” He asked.

He then turned to Joplin.

“Joplin, you’ve made your decision,” Garcia said. “You have chosen your fate. I’m here today to seek justice for Eric and collect on all of your failed gambles. To ensure your unconscious wish of becoming imprisoned for life becomes a reality. I’m here for that.”

Eric Garcia’s sister wasn’t present in the courtroom but delivered a statement through District Attorney Mark Clark. She described their upbringing in a small town in Puerto Rico and Garcia’s life in Ketchikan.

“Eric didn’t have a lot of time for himself – he was working more hours than he could physically deal with,” she wrote, outlining the time when Joplin entered her brother’s life. “At this point in his life, he was very lonely, working many night shifts.” 

She and Saul said that their brother was a romantic partner, friend, and protector to Joplin. During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that Garcia had paid for Joplin’s child support, mortgage, and legal fees, as well as jointly leased a car to help Joplin build credit. 

The only person who took the stand to support a lower sentence for Jordan Joplin was Blake Joplin, the defendant’s half-brother. He painted a different picture of Jordan. Blake said he met Jordan 13 years ago, when the pair were connected on Facebook. He said they have the same father but weren’t raised together. They eventually connected in person and Blake said that the brother he met wasn’t someone capable of murder.

“Jordan is loving. He’s just a generally really happy individual, very positive,” Blake Joplin testified.

The elder Joplin said he and his half-brother had talked regularly for 13 years.

Jordan Joplin was also given the opportunity to testify for himself, which he did through his attorney.

“Mr. Joplin has asked me to note that he acknowledges Dr. Garcia’s death and the effect it had on the family and Dr. Garcia’s friends and the community of Ketchikan and that he maintains his innocence of the crime,” defense counsel Lars Johnson read.

Prosecuting attorney Erin McCarthy asked for the greatest sentence possible though.

“The domestic, intimate relationship Mr. Joplin fabricated between himself and Dr. Garcia is not only a factor to consider, but it is as much the murder weapon as the poison Mr. Joplin ultimately used to kill the man who loved him. Perhaps the most horrific part of this crime is how Dr. Garcia wholly gave his heart to Mr. Joplin. While for Mr. Joplin, Dr. Garcia was disposable,” McCarthy said in her final comments, adding that the amount of malice and forethought in this crime was chilling.

Wolverton agreed. He paused for a long time before delivering his statements. He also disagreed with the defense’s position that the community impact shouldn’t be factored into sentencing in this case. 

“The community condemnation both from this courtroom today, throughout the community of Ketchikan and all the way up to Anchorage and throughout Alaska calls for imposition of a significant sentence,” Wolverton said.

He then addressed Joplin directly, saying that his actions were inexplicable. “You had access to Dr. Garcia’s wealth,” he said. “He wasn’t withholding.”

The judge also gave him two years for the theft, to be served concurrently. As Joplin was fingerprinted and led out of the courtroom, Garcia’s family and friends cried and exchanged hugs with prosecuting attorneys. 

a court gallery
Eric Garcia’s family and friends after Jordan Joplin’s sentencing. (Jack Darrell/KRBD)
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