A 17-year-old girl who died along with three other people in what prosecutors call a mass shooting carried out by a Cathedral City man nearly three years ago in Palm Springs was pregnant when she was killed, a medical examiner testified Wednesday.
Jose 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 driving.
During prosecution testimony at the Larson Justice Center on Wednesday, medical examiner Dr. Allison Hunt went through the autopsy process of the victims, and said Garcia was found to be five to six weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
The testimony was the first public revelation that the teen was pregnant.
During opening statements on Monday, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao said Larin-Garcia had been inside the car with the three victims, and they were at the location so Montgomery could make a drug deal.
Paixao told jurors that bullet casings found in the car were the same casings found later in the defendant’s car, although the gun has not been located. Larin-Garcia’s jacket and shoes also had the victims’ blood on it, which proves he was in the vehicle with them at the time of the murder, according to Paixao.
Larin-Garcia’s attorney, John Dolan, countered in his opening statement Tuesday that “there is nothing that suggests that 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.”
During the defendant’s preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Scot Clark said Larin-Garcia was sitting in the back seat of the Corolla when he fatally shot Carlos Campos Rivera, 25, on Canon Drive south of Theresa Drive while the victim was standing next to or leaning inside the car.
The motive for the shooting remains unclear, but Clark speculated at the time that drugs may have been involved.
After that shooting, Clark said, 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.
Clark said Larin-Garcia killed the trio because they witnessed the murder of Rivera.
Larin-Garcia “set about methodically killing the only other three people on Earth who could describe what had happened out in front of (Rivera’s) apartment building,” the prosecutor said at the time.
Police testified during the 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 has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County. He remains in custody without bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.