INDIO (CNS) – A Cathedral City man allegedly took the lives of four people “without blinking an eye,” a prosecutor said during closing arguments of his murder trial Tuesday.
Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia, 22, is charged with four counts of first- degree murder, a special circumstance allegation of targeting multiple victims and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations for the deaths of Jacob Montgomery, 19, Juan Duarte Raya, 18, Yuliana Garcia, 17, and Carlos Campos Rivera, 25.
During closing arguments at the Larson Justice Center on Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao used evidence in the trial to reconstruct the events that occurred on Feb. 3, 2019 and why Larin-Garcia is to blame.
According to Paixao, three of the victims were found in a Toyota Corolla that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads about 11:40 p.m. that day, while the fourth victim — Rivera — was located 30 minutes later lying on a street about a half-mile away.
Montongery, Raya and Garcia were killed inside the car. The latter was pregnant.
Paixao alleged Larin-Garcia was inside the Toyota with the three victims, and that Montgomery was planning to make a drug deal. The defendant was in the back seat when he allegedly fatally shot Rivera, who was leaning against the car on Canon Drive, south of Theresa Drive, Paixao said.
After the shooting, the driver of the Toyota sped off, but Larin- Garcia allegedly shot the driver as well as the other two vehicle occupants, then jumped from the moving car before it crashed into a parked Jeep at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads, according to the prosecution.
According to Paixao, blood on Larin-Garcia’s shoes and jacket had the DNA of the victims on it, placing him inside the vehicle at the time of the murder. She further argued that bullet casings at the crime scene match those that were found in the defendants bedroom and vehicle, further attaching him to the events.
Paixao will finish her closing arguments on Wednesday followed by closing arguments from Larin-Garcia’s defense attonery, John Dolan.
According to Dolan during opening statements in November, the blood splatter identified on Larin-Garcia’s clothing did not prove murder, and there was no search for the alleged gun the prosecution claims he used in the crime, only bullet casings.
John Doe, an undercover officer who spoke with Larin-Garcia while posing as a jail inmate, testified that the defendant admitted fearing that officers had obtained his gun as evidence, though Larin-Garcia never admitted to a specific crime and the gun has never been found.
Another point of argument from Dolan was social media posts and messages allegedly made by John Olvera, 18, suggesting they implicate him in the killings.
Larin-Garcia’s attorney pointed to a private conversation between Olvera and a woman, in which Olvera allegedly said, “Jacob thought I was playin’ — he shouldn’t have had a kid female in the car cuz he knew I was gonna get him…” and “I never meant that girl to die…” The message referred to one of the shooting victims, Jacob Montgomery.
Olvera denied any involvement in the killings, saying any posts on Facebook and Instagram suggesting anything to the contrary were unfounded boasts or lyrics by rapper Young Boy.
Paixao also dismissed these messages as boasts during closing arguments, stating that facts in the case did not align with what Olvera claimed happened in the messages. One such instance was that Olvera claims he was shot at first when evidence only indicates one firearm was involved.
She also claims that witnesses saw only four people in the car, not five as Dolan suggested.
According to preliminary hearing testimony, Larin-Garcia was found by officers hiding under a pickup just blocks from the scene of the Toyota crash. He was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries but wasn’t arrested.
The defendant left the hospital after being questioned by Palm Springs police, going to a friend’s house. Det. Steve Grissom testified that the friend went to the defendant’s mother’s home to retrieve fresh clothing and an ID card for the defendant. Later in the day, the friend also bought bandages for Larin-Garcia, along with a Greyhound bus ticket to Florida under the name “Joseph Browning,” Grissom testified.
At some point that day, Larin-Garcia shaved his head to change his appearance, then the friend drove him to the bus station in Indio, where he was arrested, Grissom testified.
Larin-Garcia remains held without bail at the Benoit Detention Center in Indio.
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