In the trial for the Palm Springs quadruple murder suspect Wednesday, prosecutors poked holes in several contradictions from one witness, and it was difficult at points for an investigator to talk about what she saw the night of the murders.
Palm Springs police officer Lauren Bixler took the stand and testified about photographing the scene the night of the February 2019 killings, where three of the four victims were shot in a crashed Toyota Corolla.
Giving an emotional account of dark images still seared in her mind, Bixler called the scene "traumatic and hard to talk about," detailing how she collected blood and personal items from the deceased.
The jury also heard from Saul Murillo, one of the last people to see victims Jacob Montgomery, Juan Duarte Raya and Yuliana Garcia before they were killed.
Murillo testified last month in the case that some of his statements to police at the time were false.
Changing his previous account, he now says he saw the victims around 9:30 that night for a brief meet up in an alleyway. He originally told police it happened two hours later, and just minutes before the murders.
Murillo said another man was there too, but has changed his description of him.
Palm Springs police officer Francisco Salgado testified, saying Murillo originally told him he had been told the man was "Vladis," short for Jose Larin Garcia's middle name, Vladimir.
Tuesday, jurors heard from Department of Justice forensics specialist Nancy McCombs who said multiple bullet casings that were recovered could have come from the same gun. No weapon was ever found in the investigation.
Jose Larin Garcia, a Cathedral City man, is accused of killing four people (ages 17-25): Carlos Campos, Jacob Montgomery, Yuliana Garcia and Juan Duarte Raya nearly three years ago.
The four victims were all found shot and killed on the night of February 3rd, 2019.
Three of the victims were found inside a car that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads. The fourth victim was discovered in the street on Canon Dr. few blocks away.
When police arrived on scene, they found Larin Garcia hiding under a truck. They say he appeared intoxicated and covered in blood.
Larin Garcia was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment. Security footage shows him running away from the property later that night.
Detectives have testified he then went to a friend’s house who he had buy him a one-way bus ticket to Florida using a fake name. Prosecutors say he was preparing to flee – shaving his head and beard to change his appearance. He was arrested waiting at the bus stop.
Larin Garcia is charged with four counts of murder. He also faces a special-circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders, opening him to the death penalty if convicted.
WEEK 2 IN COURT:
During the second week in court, the jury heard from Larin Garcia's mother, who says she received a call from her son on the night of the murders.
Two police officers who responded on the night of the murders also took the stand. One testified he saw a 'tall, thin' figure running near one of the crime scenes, but that person was never found or brought in for questioning. Larin-Garcia is not described as tall or thin. The court also heard from a family friend of Larin Garcia who helped him buy a one-way ticket to Florida the day after the murders. Larin Garcia was arrested before he could depart.
The court also heard from several witnesses including a neighbor, police detective and former friend of the accused. The friend shared that Larin Garcia had said he wanted to rob one of the victims prior to the killings.
WEEK 1 IN COURT:
During the first week in court, the prosecution delivered their opening statement. The defense then delivered their opening statement, arguing another man, John Olvera, is responsible for the four deaths.
Several witnesses were called to the stand, including a Palm Springs Police Department Dispatch Supervisor, several neighbors who heard gunshots or saw the victims' bodies, and individuals who knew the victims personally. The court also learned that 17-year-old victim Yuliana Garcia was pregnant at the time of her death.