A Cathedral City man accused of gunning down four people in Palm Springs three years ago boasted to a friend days before the slayings that he was going to kill someone, then asked for help setting up one of the eventual victims for a robbery, the friend testified Monday.
During prosecution testimony at the Larson Justice Center on Monday, Keven Martinez, who was friends with the defendant, Jose Larin-Garcia, and the three victims in the car, testified that he had “hung out” with Larin-Garcia days prior to the killings.
Martinez said Larin-Garcia told him he was “gonna kill someone tonight” unless he found a woman for sex. Larin-Garcia then allegedly pulled a handgun out and placed it on his lap as the two drove around the area, Martinez testified.
Larin-Garcia, 22, is charged with four counts of murder stemming from the February 2019 shootings in which the victims, ages 17 to 25, were found dead at two separate locations. He also faces a special-circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders, opening him to a possible death sentence if convicted.
According to prosecutors, three of the victims were found inside a Toyota Corolla that crashed at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads around 11:40 PM on February 3, 2019, while the fourth was found 30 minutes later lying in the street about a half-mile away.
Killed inside the car were Jacob Montgomery, 19, Juan Duarte Raya, 18,
and Yuliana Garcia, 17, who was pregnant at the time, according to medical
examiner Dr. Allison Hunt. The fourth victim, who was found in the street, was Carlos Campos Rivera, 25.
Prosecutors contend Larin-Garcia was inside the car with the three victims, and Montgomery was planning to make a drug deal. The defendant was in the back seat of the Corolla when he fatally shot Rivera, who was standing outside or leaning against the car on Canon Drive south of Theresa Drive.
After the shooting, the driver of the Toyota sped off, but Larin- Garcia fatally shot the three other people in the vehicle, then jumped from the moving car before it crashed into a parked Jeep at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads, prosecutors contend, saying Larin-Garcia killed the trio because they witnessed the murder of Rivera.
Police testified during a preliminary hearing that Larin-Garcia was found by responding officers hiding under a pickup just blocks from the scene of the crash, and was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment of various abrasions.
Larin-Garcia then fled from the hospital, where police had been questioning him, and ran to the home of a friend, prosecutors said.
Palm Springs Police Detective Steve Grissom testified during the hearing that the friend went to Larin-Garcia’s mother’s home to retrieve fresh clothing for the suspect and his identification from a wallet. 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 Greyhound station in Indio, where he was arrested, Grissom testified.
Larin-Garcia’s attorney, John Dolan, said in his opening statement that “there is nothing that suggests that Larin-Garcia committed this crime.”
According to Dolan, only blood spatter on his clothing linked the defendant to the crime scene, and there was no search for the alleged gun the prosecution claims he used in the crime, only bullet casings.
Dolan further suggested that a “slender person leaving the crime scene” was not properly investigated and could have also potentially committed the crime.
Dolan said the lack of evidence and negligence in the overall investigation leaves little proof that Larin-Garcia committed the crimes, and trying to use the scant evidence in an attempt to convict the defendant is “wrong and outrageous.”
Prosecutors contend that bullet casings found inside the Corolla after the shooting match those found during a later search of the defendant’s car. They also claim Larin-Garcia’s jacket and shoes had the victims’ blood on them.