There was an intense debate in court Tuesday in the trial for Palm Springs quadruple murder suspect Jose Larin Garcia over how he left the hospital following the February 2019 killings.
The prosecution says Larin Garcia fled the emergency room running from police, but the defense hopes to convince the jury he was discharged.
Prosecutors called to the stand Desert Regional Medical Center emergency room nurse Rachel Johns.
Last week in the case, jurors watched security footage from the hospital the night of the murders showing Larin Garcia running out of the building.
The defense said he was released and took off fearing for his safety, having just witnessed a murder and afraid the man responsible was coming after him.
Johns said she has no independent recollection of that night, or of Larin Garcia as a patient.
But a hospital document shown in court depicts that the "patient did not wait for (Emergency Department) staff to provide discharge instructions and left behind his belongings. Patient ran out of ED and did not stop when requested."
Johns called it an "elopement," saying that is not characterized as being discharged.
Also on the stand Tuesday was forensic toxicologist Erin Crabtrey, who testified about whether drugs or alcohol were detected in the victims' and defendant's blood samples.
In Carlos Campos Rivera's sample: cocaine and fentanyl were detected.
In Jacob Montgomery's sample, fentanyl and marijuana were detected.
In Yuliana Garcia's sample, no alcohol and drugs were detected.
In Juan Duarte Raya's sample, fentanyl and marijuana were detected.
In Jose Larin Garcia's sample, alcohol and marijuana were detected.
All this testimony happened after the court took a long weekend off, and following a Covid scare Thursday with yet another juror. The judge said Tuesday everyone was back in court and all were healthy.
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 3 IN COURT:
The third week in this trial, jurors heard from John Olvera, the 18-year-old who the defense argues is actually responsible. Police investigated posts on his social media accounts that appeared to take credit for the murders, but Olvera testified in several instances he was publishing rap lyrics or "fronting" as a "wannabe gangster."
Department of Justice forensics specialist Nancy McCombs testified and said the multiple bullet casings that were recovered could have come from the same gun. No weapon was ever found in the investigation.
Prosecutors poked holes in testimony from one witness who changed his previous account on the stand, and Palm Springs police investigators testified about the evidence collected from the scene.
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.