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Defense files for mistrial and dismissal of Palm Springs quadruple homicide case

The defense filed motions for mistrial and to dismiss the retrial of quadruple homicide case, in which a Cathedral City man is accused of gunning down four people in Palm Springs, claiming new evidence will make it impossible for the defendant to face a fair trial and violates his right to a fair retrial, according to court documents obtained today.   

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 on Sept. 26.   

According to court documents filed on Monday by Larin-Garcia's defense attorney John Patrick Dolan, he and defense attorney Anthony Valente will seek on Dec. 5 for a mistrial and to dismiss Larin-Garcia's retrial due to evidence -- a paper bag with a long-missing eighth casing and a cigarette butt -- which was found in the trunk of the Toyota Corolla where three of the shooting victims were found.

Dolan said that Crime Scene Tech Julie Osburn from the Palm Springs Police Department testified on Oct. 24 that a paper bag with debris, collected by a tow truck driver, was missing and was "nothing of evidentiary value," but on Nov. 8, as detective Escallada and Osburn prepared to take the Toyota Corolla to the Larson Justice Center in Indio for the jury to view on Nov. 9 she found the paper bag in the trunk.

The Corolla was taken to the courthouse with the bag of debris still inside, and after the jury viewed it, it was taken to the storage lot where Osburn photographed the vehicle and removed the bag from the trunk to take to the police department for booking, according to Dolan.

In his motion for a mistrial, Dolan claims that "whether the court decides to admit or exclude the evidence, the defendant will suffer irreparable prejudice and it will be impossible to receive a fair trial."  

In his motion to dismiss the case, he claims the handling of the evidence was an "intentional destruction and neglectful loss of and tampering with evidence," violating Larin-Garcia's right to a fair retrial.

During opening statements on Sept. 28, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao told the jury that three of the shooting victims were found in a green Toyota Corolla that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads 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. Garia 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."  

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 and current 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.   

During closing arguments in the first trial, Paixao dismissed the messages, 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 the first 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 Sept. 28, 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.

Paixao said Larin-Garcia was inside the Corolla 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 Corolla 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 Corolla 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 Larin-Garcia 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.

News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia has been in the courtroom for the first trial and the retrial. You can check out his recaps of the retrial so far below:

WEEK 5 IN COURT:

forensic toxicologist testified about whether drugs or alcohol were detected in the victims' blood samples. A fingerprint examiner who processed seven 9mm bullet casings in this case said he did not find any fingerprints on them.

A DOJ criminalist and weapons expert told the jury after examining the bullet casings from the scene that she believes they were all fired from the same weapon.

Jurors heard an hours-long recording of the undercover operation in Larin Garcia's jail cell.

An undercover agent gave testimony about what Larin Garcia told him while he was posing as an inmate in jail.

WEEK 4 IN COURT:

A friend of Larin Garcia's told the jury that the defendant showed him a gun and threatened to kill someone just days before the murders.

A PSPD detective testified about evidence she collected from the scene and security video she retrieved of Larin Garcia running out of the hospital.

A girlfriend of one of the victims' spoke about showing police Facebook messages sent the night of the murders regarding the fentanyl drug deal at the heart of these murders.

The man the defense says claimed responsibility for the murders testified he did not kill the four victims in this case.

WEEK 3 IN COURT:

Last week, a family friend who harbored Larin Garcia after he fled the from the hospital testified. The jury also heard from the investigator who arrested him later that night at an Indio bus stop.

Larin Garcia's mother took the stand, revealing he called her the night of the murders and she brought him clothes and a cell phone after he ran from the hospital.

Medical examiners testified the victims were all killed instantly by gunshot wounds to the head.

A friend of the defendant spoke about a key phone call she got from the defendant just after the murders happened.

WEEK 2 IN COURT:

The jury heard from a police investigator and a friend of some of the victims.

A hospital nurse who treated Larin Garcia as a trauma patient the night of the murders testified he ran from the emergency department.

A Palm Springs police officer gave testimony key to the defense argument that another man carried out the shootings. 

The jury was brought on-location to the scene of the crimes.

WEEK 1 IN COURT:

During opening statements, prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked the jury to hold Larin Garcia responsible for the four lives she said he stole.

Defense attorney John Patrick Dolan argued that another man, John Olvera, was responsible for the murders.

The jury heard from some of the first people on scene after the murders, including neighbors who saw the dead bodies and the police officer who first made contact with the suspect.

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