With jurors saying they were hopelessly deadlocked, a mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a Cathedral City man accused of gunning down four people in Palm Springs.
Jurors deliberated over the course of seven days in the trial of Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia, 22, who 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.
On Tuesday morning, the jury notified Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos that they were unable to reach a verdict. The judge spoke with the panel and gave them additional instructions and asked them to resume deliberations.
But a short time later, the jury reported no progress and indicated they were hopelessly deadlocked.
Villalobos dismissed the panel, thanking them for their service. He
later scheduled Larin-Garcia for a trial-readiness conference on June 17 to
begin the re-trial process.
During two days of closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao said three of the shooting victims were found in a Toyota Corolla that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads at about 11:40 p.m. the day of the killings, while the fourth victim — Rivera — was located 30 minutes later lying on a street about a half-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 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 Toyota 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.
Larin-Garcia’s defense attorney, John 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.
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.
Dolan also pointed to social media posts and messages allegedly made by John Olvera, now 18 but then 15, suggesting they implicate him in the killings.
Dolan 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.
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.
Paixao also dismissed the messages during closing arguments, saying facts in the case did not align with what Olvera claimed occurred. For instance, Olvera claims he was shot at first when evidence only indicates one firearm was involved.
Dolan claimed that Olvera was an unreliable witness during the trial and that his testimony should not be trusted, only his social media posts taking credit for the homicides. Dolan 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.
He 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.
According to preliminary hearing testimony, Larin-Garcia was found by officers hiding under a pickup just blocks from the scene of the Toyota 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 he was arrested, Grissom testified.
Larin-Garcia remains held without bail at the Benoit Detention Center in Indio.