Opening Statements Begin in Palm Springs Quadruple Homicide Case

City News Service

(CNS) – Opening statements were delivered Wednesday in the retrial of a Cathedral City man accused of gunning down four people in Palm Springs, with the prosecution accusing the defendant and the defense accusing a different man who allegedly admitted to the shootings over social media.

Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia, 23, is charged with four counts of first- degree murder for the Feb. 3, 2019, deaths of Jacob Montgomery, 19, Juan Duarte Raya, 18, Yuliana Garcia, 17, and Carlos Campos Rivera, 25. The charges include a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

Jurors in the first trial deliberated over seven days and indicated they were deadlocked on March 8. A new jury was sworn in Monday in Larin- Garcia’s retrial.

Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao told that jury Wednesday that three of the shooting victims were found in a green Toyota Corolla that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads at about 11:40 p.m. the day of the killings, while the fourth victim — Rivera — was found discarded on a street about a half-mile away.

“He (Montgomery) was shot twice in the face, so the person that would have shot him would have been to the side, next to him, pointing that gun,” Paixao said. “He didn’t stand a chance. He was taken by surprise.”

Montgomery, Raya and Garcia were killed inside the car, authorities said. The latter was pregnant.

“I will stand before you at the end of the trial and ask you to hold him (Larin-Garcia) accountable for each and every count, for each and every allegation for what he stole on that night,” Paixao said. “Four people’s lives.”

Larin-Garcia’s defense attorney, John Dolan, pointed to social media posts and messages allegedly made by John Olvera, then 15, suggesting they implicate him in the killings. He also 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 allegedly referred to one of the shooting victims, Jacob Montgomery.

“The people assure that Mr. Larin Garcia, this 19-year-old boy on February 3, 2019, killed four people and he should be held accountable for it,” Dolan said. “That is just despicable. Mr. Olvera took credit for this, he’s the person you should be trying on this case.”

During the first trial, 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 the messages during closing arguments, saying facts in the case did not align with what Olvera claimed occurred. For instance, Olvera claims he was shot at first when evidence indicates only one firearm was involved.

Dolan claimed that Olvera was an unreliable witness at trial and that his testimony should not be trusted, only his social media posts taking credit for the homicides. He further argued that police did not properly investigate Olvera when they found the posts, casting reasonable doubt on whether or not his client committed the crime.

In the first trial and again on Wednesday, Dolan created a scene for the jury in which Olvera was in the middle seat of the car shooting the passengers, and that Larin-Garcia jumped from the vehicle when the killings began. Paixao argued that no evidence was present to suggest a fifth person was in the vehicle, pointing to eyewitness testimony of only four people being present.

Jacob Montgomery, 19, Juan Duarte Raya, 18, and Yuliana Garcia, 17, who were found dead inside a Toyota Corolla that crashed into a parked vehicle at 11:40 p.m. Feb. 3 at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads.

Paixao said 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 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 defendant’s bedroom and vehicle, further attaching him to the events.

Dolan asserted during his closing argument that the blood splatter identified on Larin-Garcia’s clothing did not prove murder, and there was no search for a gun the prosecution claims he used in the crime, only bullet casings.

According to preliminary hearing testimony in the first trial, 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. Detective 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.

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.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

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