Trial error declared in quadruple homicide case: Court

PALM DESERT, Calif. — With jurors saying they were hopelessly deadlocked, a mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a Cathedral City man accused of fatally shooting four people in Palm Springs.

Jurors deliberated for seven days during the trial of Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia, 22, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the February 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 firearms and allegations of serious bodily harm.

On Tuesday morning, the jury informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The judge spoke to the panel and gave them further instructions and asked them to resume deliberations.

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But soon after, the jury reported no progress and said they were hopelessly at an impasse.

Villalobos fired the panel, thanking them for their service. He then scheduled Larin-Garcia for a pre-trial conference on June 17 to begin the retrial process.

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During two days of court proceedings, Assistant District Attorney Samantha Paixao said three of the victims were found in a Toyota Corolla that crashed on Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads around 11:40 p.m. on the day of the murder, while the fourth victim – – Rivera – was located 30 minutes later on a street about half a mile away.

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

Paixao said Larin-Garcia was inside the Toyota with the three victims and that Montgomery planned to deal drugs. The accused was in the back seat when he allegedly 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 away, but Larin-Garcia allegedly shot the driver and the two other occupants, then jumped out of the moving car before crashing into a parked Jeep on Sunny Roads Dunes and El Placer, according to the prosecution.

According to Paixao, the blood on Larin-Garcia’s shoes and jacket contained the victims’ DNA, placing it inside the vehicle at the time of the murder. She further argued that the bullet casings at the crime scene match those found in the defendant’s bedroom and vehicle, further tying her to the events.

Larin-Garcia’s defense attorney, John Dolan, claimed in closing argument that the blood spatter identified on Larin-Garcia’s clothing did not prove murder and that there was no search for firearm the prosecution claims to have used in the crime, only bullet casings.

An undercover officer who spoke with Larin-Garcia while posing as an inmate said the defendant admitted to concern that officers obtained his gun as evidence, although Larin-Garcia never admitted to a specific crime and the weapon was never found.

Dolan also pointed to posts and social media posts allegedly made by John Olvera, now 18 but then 15, suggesting they implicated him in the murders.

Dolan recalled a private conversation between Olvera and a woman, in which Olvera allegedly said, “Jacob thought I was playing – he shouldn’t have had a girl in the car because he knew I was going to have her… and “I never wanted this girl to die…” The message allegedly referred to one of the shooting victims, Jacob Montgomery.

Olvera has denied any involvement in the murders, saying all posts on Facebook and Instagram suggesting otherwise were brags or unfounded lyrics by rapper Young Boy.

Paixao also dismissed the messages during closing arguments, saying the facts of the case did not match what Olvera claimed happened. For example, Olvera claims he was shot first when evidence indicates only one firearm was involved.

Dolan claimed that Olvera was not a reliable witness during the trial and that his testimony should not be trusted, with only his social media posts taking credit for the homicides. Dolan further argued that police failed to properly investigate Olvera when they found the messages, casting reasonable doubt on whether or not his client committed the crime.

He created a scene for the jury in which Olvera was in the middle seat of the car shooting passengers, and Larin-Garcia jumped out of 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 that only four people were present.

According to testimony from the preliminary hearing, Larin-Garcia was found by officers hiding under a pickup truck a few blocks from the scene of the Toyota crash. He was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries but was not arrested.

The accused left the hospital after being questioned by Palm Springs police, on his way to a friend’s house. Detective Steve Grissom testified that the friend went to the defendant’s mother’s home to collect clean clothes and an identification card for the defendant. Later that day, the friend also purchased bandages for Larin-Garcia, as well as 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 being held without bail at the Benoit Detention Center in Indio.

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