INDIO (CNS) – The mother and grandmother of a young man who was killed along with three other people in a Palm Springs shooting more than four years ago testified Wednesday about the pain they felt over losing their only son and grandchild, saying they’ll never be able to share memories with him anymore.
Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia, 23, of Cathedral City, was convicted Feb. 6 of murder for carrying out the Feb. 3, 2019, quadruple killing of Jacob Montgomery, 19; Juan Duarte Raya, 18; Yuliana Garcia, 17; and Carlos Campos Rivera, 25.
Jurors also found true a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
The same jury is now being asked to recommend whether Larin-Garcia should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
During the penalty phase of the trial Wednesday, Montgomery’s mother, Dana Beauchemin, testified through tears that her son was always trying to keep a smile on everyone’s face. She also said he would share accomplishments from school with her, and was saving money to move to Montana with her before he was killed.
“Jacob was the first one to go in our family. … Everybody’s still alive but not him, and I hate this,” Beauchemin said. “I hate it. I don’t think any of these kids deserved any of this.”
His grandmother, Edith Carranza, told jurors that she had a close relationship with Montgomery, so much so that when Beauchemin moved to Montana, he chose to stay behind with his grandma.
She said the last night she saw her grandson, she had invited him to a work dinner, but he wanted to hang out with his friends. She said she told him to be home before 11 p.m. or she would lock the door, and he said, “No grandma I’ll be home.”
Carranza said that when she got home that night, he wasn’t there, and the next day she found one of Montgomery’s friends crying by her garage. The friend told her that her grandson had died.
“When I saw him I just couldn’t believe that he was actually dead. I wanted to be dead before him,” Carranza said. “Everything is ugly. There’s no room, his bedroom is empty and ugly and we have a bunch of pictures of him and he’s not there. He’s not coming home again. … Without him it’s ugly.”
Raya’s mother, Juana Raya, testified Tuesday that she lost her oldest son, Roberto Raya, to brain cancer about four years before Juan was killed.
“It’s funny, when they were little … I used to always dress them the same because Juan always wanted what Roberto had. … So I always bought the same clothes, same shoes, and that way there was no fighting,” Juana Raya said. “And now, when I do their graves, because I have that in my head still. … I just do the same flowers.”
She said that the day before going to the cemetery to celebrate Roberto’s birthday, she was surprised to see Juan home before 11 p.m. He popped in to grab his charger and a burrito from his dad before heading out with his long-time friends, Montgomery and Garcia. Raya told him, “Take care,” and that was the last time she saw him.
“It was different. I see him one night walking out of the house, then I don’t see him at all,” Raya said. “I was mad at the person that did it. … That’s not fair, the person destroyed so many lives and he destroyed me again.”
Raya said she texted and called Juan multiple times before they went to the cemetery the next day, but that on the way there someone called with the news about Juan’s death.
During earlier testimony in the penalty phase, Rivera’s mother Martha Sakowicz explained through tears that the last time she spoke to her son was the night before he died; that it was the last night he told her he loved her and that losing him was the hardest thing for her,
“As a grandma, it kills me to see my granddaughter without a father. It kills me to see them run to the ashes and say, `Daddy, daddy,”‘ she said. “My life is never ever gonna be the same, you know. I feel like half of my brain is missing.”
During opening statements in the penalty phase last week, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked jurors to consider the significance of the lives lost. Larin-Garcia’s attorney, John Dolan, asked jurors to consider that on the night of the fatal shootings, Larin-Garcia was “a 19-year-old kid,” intoxicated, and also has a family who will be affected by the penalty decision.
Prosecutors said Larin-Garcia was sitting in a stopped car with Montgomery, Raya and Garcia on the night of the killings, and first fatally shot Rivera, who was leaning against the stopped vehicle. The driver sped away after that shooting, but Larin-Garcia — who was in the back seat — then fatally shot the trio inside the vehicle to eliminate witnesses and jumped from the moving car before it crashed into a parked Jeep at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads, prosecutors said.
Montgomery, Raya and Garcia were found in the crashed Toyota Corolla around 11:40 p.m. the night of the killings, while Rivera was found on a street about a half-mile away, according to prosecutors.
Larin-Garcia was found near the scene of the crime and taken to a hospital, but he left after being questioned by Palm Springs police, going to a friend’s house. Detective Steve Grissom testified that the friend went to his 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 Larin- Garcia was arrested, Grissom testified.
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