Suspect in fatal shooting at Extraordinary Desserts arrested
Fox television program leads to tip resulting in his capture
Published Thursday, 22-Mar-2007 in issue 1004
A fugitive construction worker from Northern California has been captured and returned to San Diego for trial following a manhunt which lasted for more than two months following an apparently random shooting at a Hillcrest area restaurant. The shooting took place in December 2006 and resulted in the death of a local businessman and the hospitalization of another man.
Ralph Stephen Garbarini, 45, a transient construction worker from Jackson, was returned to San Diego to face trial for the murder of San Diego resident Michael Fineman, 44, and the attempted murder of Anthony Koveleski.
Fineman, Koveleski and their wives were dining together at Extraordinary Desserts on Dec. 30, when Garbarini walked into the restaurant and began staring at the two couples. When Fineman complained about Garbarini’s behavior, restaurant staff asked Garbarini to leave. Garbarini left, but returned minutes later and shot both men.
Koveleski was wounded but recovered from his wounds after being hospitalized. Fineman – an Army veteran and father of three small children – died moments after the shooting as a result of gunshot wounds to the head. Neither man had met Garbarini prior to that evening.
After shooting the two men, Garbarini calmly left the restaurant and left the scene in his grayish-brown 1990 Toyota pickup truck, setting off an intensive manhunt by police in San Diego and beyond.
Authorities were particularly frustrated by Garbarini’s ability to elude capture despite the distinctive plywood camper shell on his vehicle.
There are nearly 400 homeless citizens in District 3, according to a count taken in April 2006 by the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Next to downtown, Hillcrest has the highest rate of transients in the city.
Police believe that Garbarini lived out of the back of his truck for more than two months. In that time, tips came in that he had been spotted in various locations in Arizona and California, but none of the tips led anywhere. Police now suspect that he had been living in Hollywood for most of the time since the shootings.
The break in the case came after Garbarini was featured on Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted.” On March 13, days after the show aired, the program received a tip from a woman who had watched it and who had seen Garbarini’s vehicle, now spray-painted white, near her apartment complex on Hawthorn Avenue in Hollywood.
A pair of retired police officers working as private security officers kept watch on the vehicle until police detectives from Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as members of an FBI task force, could arrive on the scene. When the suspect was spotted approaching his pickup truck at approximately 4 p.m., more than 30 law enforcement officers had arrived.
Garbarini was unarmed and surrendered peacefully as officers took him into custody. He was returned to San Diego that same evening. Following Garbarini’s arrest, Fineman’s widow, Thuy, said, “I just hope justice will be served so that my husband, Michael, will be able to rest in peace.”
At a hearing on March 14, Garbarini pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all charges. Superior Court Judge John Thompson ordered that Garbarini be held without bail.
“Mr. Garbarini’s next court date is a preliminary hearing tentatively scheduled for May 14,” said Deputy District Attorney Genaro Ramirez. If convicted, Garbarini could face the death penalty due to the premeditated nature of the crime.