Man Charged With Strangling Girlfriend and 4 Children, Motive Sought

A man charged with strangling his girlfriend and her four young children was in jail in Texas early Wednesday awaiting extradition to Oklahoma while investigators searched for a motive.

Joshua Steven Durcho, 25, was arrested Tuesday night in Texas' Hamilton County after his car hit a guard rail on state Highway 36 and then struck a tree, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.

"They passed each other, our trooper is watching him in the rearview mirror, he sees him weaving, and he turns around to investigate," Vinger said. "That's when the suspect's vehicle crashed."

Vinger said Durcho's concerns about being followed by a trooper may have caused him to focus on the rearview mirror instead of the road, leading to the crash.

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Durcho's identity was checked and it was determined he was wanted by Oklahoma authorities.

He was treated for minor injuries at a Hamilton, Texas, hospital and released to a state trooper who took him to the county jail, where he was being held without bail. The DPS did not have information on whether Durcho had an attorney.

Prosecutors charged Durcho with five counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon, a day after an El Reno police officer conducting a welfare check found Summer Garas, 25, and her children dead in their apartment in the Oklahoma City suburb. Each of the charges listed strangulation as the cause of death.

The children ranged in age from 3 to 7, and each had ligature marks around the neck, according to an OSBI affidavit.

Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said investigators haven't determined a motive for the killings.

"We don't know if it's a domestic that went terribly wrong," Brown said. "I know they had their ups and downs in their relationship."

Besides Garas, daughters Kirsten Rust, 7; Autumn Rust, 6; and Evynn Garas, 3; and son Teagin Rust, 4, were killed.

Susan Rust of Carson City, Nev., Garas' mother, said her daughter had planned to end her relationship with Durcho this past Sunday.

"She said it was over and it was done, and apparently that didn't go over very well," Rust said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"I hope he gets the slowest, most painful death, because that's what he has earned. Hell is too good for him."

After the killings, Durcho reportedly drove to Edmond and told a friend that he had "choked" Summer Garas and that he planned to flee the state, according to the affidavit. When the friend asked Durcho about the children, Durcho told her the children were with Garas' mother in Nevada.

According to the affidavit, Durcho also visited a cousin in Oakwood about 6:30 p.m. Monday and tried to get her to swap vehicles with him.

Durcho's arrest came about 24 hours after surveillance video from a truck stop in Clinton, about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City, captured his image and that of a white car authorities believe belonged to Garas.

According to court records, Durcho was convicted of car theft as a juvenile and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2003 for unlawful possession of marijuana. He was released in February 2007, records show.

"He has been in and out of jail most of his adult life," Brown said.

Durcho's page on the MySpace social networking Web site includes pictures of him in a sleeveless shirt, flexing his tattooed arms. He lists interests including tattoos, bodybuilding and the gory "Saw" film series. It includes a warning:

"Danger many illegal activities in progress. Enter at your own risk."

Summer Garas was a student at nearby Redlands Community College, where she was studying to be a legal assistant, school officials confirmed.

"From what I have heard, she was a very intelligent young woman and very well liked by her peers," college spokeswoman Meg Cannon said. "Obviously, we are going to miss her, and her family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Court records show that Summer Garas and her ex-husband Jason Garas were divorced on Dec. 10.

Crystal Franklin, Jason Garas' mother, said she was devastated by the killings.

"I'm just numb, just not knowing what to think," she said. "The kids were just wonderful."

Franklin said Summer Garas rarely locked her door and helped neighbors when they were in need.

"Summer never met an enemy," she said. "She didn't have an enemy, just loved everybody."

Teagin was fond of monster trucks and had planned to go with his grandparents to a truck show in Oklahoma City, Franklin said.

"They were just full of life, a joy to be around," she said.