"Primal Instinct": Bride Murdered By Her Jealous Ex-Boyfriend On Her Wedding Day
RIDGEFIELD, NJ — On September 26, 1999, Gladys Ricart was preparing for a storybook wedding with her fiance, James Preston, at her home in Ridgefield, New Jersey.
But her bridal party turned into a bloodbath when her ex-boyfriend, Agustin Garcia, who had been stalking her for weeks, came in and opened fire.
Ricart came to New York from the Dominican Republic in search of the American Dream. She supported herself by cleaning homes and offices before going to college and landing a job with a travel agent.
The romance that ended with such shocking violence began innocently, with a random encounter on a New York City subway in 1992.
After that first fateful meeting, Ricart learned that Garcia was an influential community leader, and he introduced her to a world of fancy parties and power politics.
Former prosecutor Fred Schwanwede called Ricart an “ambitious, very hard-working person.”
Soon, Ricart and Garcia became a couple. Ricart’s friend Pat Pollio said that she had fallen for Garcia despite the fact that they traveled in different social circles.
For six years, the relationship appeared to flourish, and, after several years of dating, Garcia helped Ricart buy a house. But Ricart wanted marriage, and Garcia appeared reluctant to make a permanent commitment.
Then one night, she visited his office and got a shock: Garcia was in a clinch with another woman — who happened to be Ricart’s best friend.
Ricart was heartbroken, and felt that she had wasted seven years of her life. “She hated him,” Pollio said.
Garcia tried to get Ricart to take him back, calling hundreds of times, but she refused to give him another chance.
She was determined to move on with her life, but Garcia only became more obsessed. He started showing up at her house unannounced. He left a trail of white roses, which in the Dominican community symbolized death. Ricart was reluctant to call the police and, according to friends, on some level felt that she owed him.
By June 1999, the calls and stalking had taken their toll on Gladys.
Then, Gladys had another fateful encounter with a man on the street. This time, the stranger was a man named James Preston.
Soon, Preston and Ricart started a relationship. Preston was a musician, and treated Ricart “like a queen,” according to friends.
As they fell deeper in love, Garcia’s dangerous obsession grew.
After only a few months of dating, Preston proposed. Finally, Ricart appeared to be getting the storybook wedding and marrying the man of her dreams. “She always dreamed of having a big wedding,” Pollio said. “She was doing everything the way she wanted to.”
Meanwhile, Garcia continued to unravel. Friends and family say that he had not told anyone about the breakup. He kept calling, and his behavior escalated. He harassed Ricart’s mother on the street, and threw a rock through a window while Ricart and Preston were inside.
Finally, Ricart broke down and called 911. However, once again, she did not press charges. She simply asked the police to keep a watch on her house.
In the wee hours of the morning the day of the wedding, Garcia confronted Ricart at a local supermarket. Security-camera footage showed them walking the aisle together — but their conversation could not be overheard.
He was carrying a briefcase. Garcia told Juan, Ricart’s brother, that he just wanted to wish her well on her wedding day.
Later that day, as Ricart was handing out bouquets to her bridesmaids and preparing to step into a white Rolls-Royce, Garcia appeared and took out a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and fired five shots. Three of them struck Ricart. The entire horror was captured by the videographer who had been hired to film the wedding, and in the video, guests can be heard screaming and running as the wedding party descends into mayhem.
Juan tackled Garcia as he tried to reload the gun, and police arrived on the scene and arrested him.
At trial, Garcia’s lawyers argued that Ricart and he had been romantically linked right up to her wedding day, and had had sex three days before. They stated that when Garcia learned that Gladys was going to marry Preston, he became temporarily insane in a state they termed “acute adjustment disorder.”
But the jury rejected Agustin’s manslaughter plea, and found him guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. Agustin’s lawyers have appealed the sentence several times. In 2013, he lost his latest appeal to lower his life sentence.
Glady Ricart was buried in her wedding dress. Every year since 2001, there are “Brides Marchs” against domestic violence, in honor of the memory of Ricart. They happen all over the country, with women clad in wedding dresses marching together to bring awareness to this important topic.