Jury recommends death for Palm Springs quadruple murderer
By Kristy Ramirez
Jurors in the penalty phase of the trial of a 23-year-old man convicted of killing four people in Palm Springs returned a unanimous verdict Friday recommending a death sentence for the defendant.
The verdict in the penalty phase of the trial for Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia of Cathedral City came back at 1:30 p.m. at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to Amy McKenzie with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. Jurors began deliberating in the case around 11 a.m. Monday.
Larin-Garcia was convicted Feb. 6 of murder for carrying out the 2019 killings of Jacob Montgomery, 19; Juan Duarte Raya, 18; Yuliana Garcia, 17; and Carlos Campos Rivera, 25.
Jurors also found true a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
During closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked jurors to consider the defendant’s previous violent crimes, presenting slides detailing instances in which the defendant hit and resisted officers, when he put a gun to the head of a 14-year-old girl in 2016, and when he was involved in an armed robbery.
She also told jurors to think about the families and “to consider the fact that they have to go on, that they have to pick the pieces up and march on.” Paixao showed jurors photos of each victim and recalled the testimony of their relatives over the previous two weeks, asking the panel to consider the impact the defendant’s actions had on them.
“He chose what he did, ladies and gentlemen. There is nothing in his background to give you leniency,” Paixao told jurors. “Their future, their life, their hope, their dreams — gone because of him, for no reason. … If Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia on February 3rd of 2019 executed four people for no reason, he deserves the greater punishment of death.”
Larin-Garcia’s attorney, John Dolan, asked jurors to again reconsider the evidence from the guilt phase of the trial, which he called insufficient, and pointed to the mishandling of evidence in the Palm Springs murder case that has now resulted in a death sentence.
Dolan told jurors about inconsistencies in the evidence, saying “It’s very possible that a mistake was made,” and to consider whether they want to change their guilty verdict.
“Please don’t vote to kill Jose,” Dolan said. “Please go back and look at the evidence from the guilt phase and decide if there’s a possibility that a mistake was made. Look into your heart and ask ‘Do you want this man to be executed?’ … I hope that there’s a moral judgment in all of you.”
Prosecutors said Larin-Garcia was sitting in a stopped car with Montgomery, Raya and Garcia on the night of the killings, and first fatally shot Rivera, who was leaning against the stopped vehicle. The driver sped away after that shooting, but Larin-Garcia — who was in the back seat — then fatally shot the trio inside the vehicle to eliminate witnesses and jumped from the moving car before it crashed into a parked Jeep at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads, prosecutors said.
Montgomery, Raya and Garcia were found in the crashed Toyota Corolla around 11:40 p.m. the night of the killings, while Rivera was found on a street about a half-mile away, according to prosecutors.
Larin-Garcia was found near the scene of the crime and taken to a hospital, but he left after being questioned by Palm Springs police, going to a friend’s house. Detective Steve Grissom testified that the friend went to Larin-Garcia’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.