More Detailed Expert Testimony, Jury Field Trip as Larin-Garcia Quadruple Murder Trial Ongoing

By Brinda Kalita, Keana Sauray, Gabriel Eskandari, and Luke Kyaw

RIVERSIDE, CA – In Riverside County Superior Court Dept. 2H this Tuesday, the quadruple homicide jury trial of Jose Larin-Garcia reconvened with expert and highly technical testimony from forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Scott McCormick and crime scene technician Julie Osburn.

The jury was even taken from the courtroom to view the vehicle where four people were murdered.

Dr. McCormick works as a consultant for the Riverside County Coroner’s Office, and Julie Osburn works for the Palm Springs Police Department.

At the start of his testimony, Dr. McCormick explained that he has conducted more than 5,200 autopsies and explained that the process includes examining the body as it arrives, photographing it, and looking for evidence of injury or medical disease.

Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked Dr. McCormick if he conducted an autopsy on Jacob Montgomery, one of the victims in the case, on Feb. 6, 2019. He responded affirmatively, and the DDA began displaying images of the autopsy for the court to see.

Dr. McCormick noted that there had been four electrogram monitor pads on Montgomery’s back which was evidence of resuscitation attempts, and noted that it was important to tell the difference between changes made to a body during resuscitation attempts versus injuries.

DDA Paixao then moved on to the injuries on Montgomery’s head.

Dr. McCormick pointed out one gunshot entrance wound that was five inches from the top of the head on the right cheek. He determined it was an entrance wound due to missing skin, a crescent-shaped abrasion adjacent to the wound, and stippling.

Dr. McCormick explained that stippling is little red dots carved out of the skin from burning and unburned gunpowder. According to Dr. McCormick, though it depends to some extent on the gun and ammunition, stippling generally indicates a range “from a few inches to about a foot and a half … we would call that intermediate range,” but sometimes up to two to three feet.

For closer range wounds, Dr. McCormick stated that soot would be found. Those particles are smaller and don’t travel as far as gunpowder particles can, he said, adding that he didn’t see any soot for the wound being examined, nor did he notice a muzzle stamp.

Dr. McCormick then examined a second gunshot wound which he said was seven inches from the top of the head and two inches from the midline, closer to the ear. This wound did have a ring of soot around it according to Dr. McCormick, but no muzzle stamp.

Dr. McCormick then analyzed one of the exit wounds on the left side of the head. There was also an abrasion in between the eye and exit wound, which Dr. McCormick said could be related to the gunshot wound or could be a separate injury. There was no stippling, muzzle stamp, or missing skin at the exit wound.

The second exit wound was then examined, and DDA Paixao asked if it was possible to determine which entrance wound matched with which exit wound. Dr. McCormick said it was possible during the internal examination—after the brain was removed, he could look to see the path of the bullets.

Toward the end of the autopsy, Dr. McCormick stated that he inserted direction rods in order to demonstrate the direction of the wound path. When asked how he would know if he got the wound path correct, he explained that he was physically able to follow the paths inside the skull.

Then, DDA Paixao asked if Dr. McCormick was able to form an opinion on Montgomery’s cause of death, to which Dr. McCormick stated the cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head.

DDA Paixao then asked Dr. McCormick if he had also conducted an autopsy on Juan Duarte Raya, another victim in the case. Dr. McCormick stated he did and had used the same procedures.

On the back of Duarte Raya’s right hand, Dr. McCormick noted several abrasions. He said they were relatively fresh and not scabbed over, indicating that they were probably from the day he had died.

DDA Paixao asked if these injuries could have occurred as part of a traffic collision, and Dr. McCormick said that could be one way they could occur.

DDA Paixao inquired about the use of X-rays, and Dr. McCormick said that if needed, they would be conducted prior to the autopsy. DDA Paixao then posted an X-ray of Duarte Raya’s head, and Dr. McCormick noted two bullet or jacket fragments and a significant fracture of his skull.

In other images of Duarte Raya, Dr. McCormick analyzed two entrance wounds, one of which was on the top of the skull and exited from the right of the forehead and the other which was on the back of the head and exited from the lower left cheek. He also noted abrasions to the bridge of the nose, middle part of the right eyebrow, cheek, and chin.

Dr. McCormick noted that the abrasions appear to have linearity and a sharp component to them. DDA Paixao asked where one would see this kind of injury, and he stated it could be seen in motor vehicle accidents, face plants, or other ways as it was a non-specific type of injury.

DDA Paixao asked Dr. McCormick for his opinion of the cause of death for Duarte Raya, and he stated it was due to gunshot wounds to the head.

Defense Attorney John Dolan then began questioning Dr. McCormick, asking him if he knew about fentanyl in Duarte Raya’s system, and if it would be related to the cause of death. Dr. McCormick said this would not be related to the cause of death.

Attorney Dolan also asked if the abrasions on Duarte Raya’s hand and face could have been caused by a fight, and Dr. McCormick said it was possible.

Dr. McCormick also noted that he could not tell the caliber of the weapons by the wounds, and that the interval from injury to death would have been a matter of seconds for both cases.

Julie Osburn was then called to the stand by Defense Attorney Anthony Valente.

Osburn confirmed that she went to the city yard to do an inspection of the left rear driver’s side door on Nov. 17, 2021. Attorney Valente asked Osburn who was at the scene upon arrival and she stated that the team for defense, including Attorney Valente, two investigators, the DDA, Officer Castle, and herself were there.

Attorney Valente then asked, “Was one of those persons Mr. Randy Beasley?” Osburn responded affirmatively.

Attorney Valente confirmed with Osburn that the bullet hole in the left rear door was “rodded.” She stated that she believed that they did “rod” the door. Attorney Valente also asked Osburn to confirm that photos were taken of the door, and she confirmed that photos were taken for the purpose of visualizing the direction that the bullet may have taken.

Attorney Valente asked, “Do you recall Mr. Beasley having mannequin heads with him?” Osburn responded that she did. He continued to ask Osburn if the mannequin heads had rods through them, and Osburn replied “I would need to look at my photos, I recall a fake gun but not the rods.” Attorney Valente allowed her a moment to look at the photos but she stated that she did not have them with her.

Attorney Valente then asked if Osburn remembered Beasley’s “daunting” protective gear. Osburn said she did, and Attorney Valente added “along with the investigator?” Osburn said “yes.”

Attorney Valente built on his question by asking “along with the fake gun?” and “you remember the head?” Osburn replied “yes” to both questions. Attorney Valente asked, “but you don’t remember if there were rods through the head?” and Osburn responded, “I know that we used rods but no I’m not sure.”

Osburn then confirmed that photos were taken of Beasley in the car, stating, “I was directed to [take the photos]. I was not really involved in that portion of it but I was asked to take the photos.”

Attorney Valente then focused on the photos taken of Beasley at the scene. He asked Osburn to confirm that Mr. Beasley was sitting in the center of the rear of the Toyota, and she responded that he was.

He asked Osburn if she recalled the photo with the mannequin head and the rods that she took of what Beasley was doing, and her answer was unclear. Valente continued to interrogate Osburn about the photos that she took of Beasley, and asked if the photos depicted Beasley, simulating the direction of travel or trajectory of the bullet through the head. Judge Villalobos overruled the question.

Osburn stated that “someone had a hypothesis they wanted to test about a possible different scenario, but I was really only there photographing, I have no idea what their intent or what they were trying to prove or disprove.”

Attorney Valente then asked if the photos she did document were of Beasley with a head and a toy gun. She responded “yes, some of them.”

Osburn revealed that in the outline, she had written that there was a bullet hole in the front door of the Toyota Corolla found at the crime scene. Osburn was then shown a picture that she had taken of the hole in the car. After seeing this picture, Osburn testified that the same bullet hole that she thought was on the front door in her report was actually found on the rear door on the driver side of the car.

Osburn was then asked by DDA Paixao the purpose of writing and taking pictures of her findings. Osburn answered that by both writing and taking pictures, she was able to “back everything up and cross-reference materials for certainty.” But, for this specific case, Osburn only relied on her photograph of the car.

DDA Paixao then refocused the attention on Attorney Valente’s line of questioning about the green Toyota Corolla and its move from the secure location to the city yard in June 2019. She asked Osburn about why the move was done. Osburn replied that it was to provide easier access for detectives to investigate the car. However, she also revealed that this move could have exposed the car to harsher conditions.

Next, Osburn was questioned about the chronology of her studies at the crime scene. Osburn revealed that the bullet hole was found in all instances that she had visited the Corolla: Feb. 6, 2019, Feb. 7, 2019, Nov. 2021, and most recently in January 2022.

Osburn also revealed that throughout her visits, there was nothing added or removed from the Corolla. DDA Paixao also confirmed with Osburn that no cross contamination had occurred despite the car being moved around and placed in harsher conditions.

Osburn also confirmed that no blue fentanyl was found in the Corolla.

Osburn was then asked by DDA Paixao if she had ever visited the traffic scene where the Toyota crashed and was asked if she had ever placed anything from the scene in the Toyota. Osburn replied with no to both of these questions.

After a lunch break, the court reconvened. Judge Villalobos told the jury that they were going to be taken outside for a view of the Toyota Corolla.

The attorneys and the judge would also be accompanying them on the view and the courtroom would be closed during this time. The view took approximately an hour.

The court then went back on record right after and Osburn took the stand once more.

DDA Paixao revisited Defense Attorney John Dolan’s concern on Monday regarding the photographs that Osburn took of the trunk of the Honda Civic—the defendant’s car.

There was a photograph of the trunk having layers of debris and another with the trunk empty. Dolan had expressed concern over the order in which the photos had been taken and whether the debris could potentially have been planted to work against the defendant.

DDA Paixao took some time to establish with Osburn that the latter had chronologically taken photographs of the trunk, layer by layer.

Paixao referred to multiple exhibits (III, GGG, HHH, etc.)—the different layers of debris in the trunk—and asked Osburn if she planted the debris or “made a mess” in the trunk of the Honda Civic in order to frame the defendant.

Osburn firmly responded in the negative.

Attorney Valente then questioned Osburn and asked if she could have sneaked in the plastic baggie with the bullet casings—found in the debris—inside the trunk. DDA Paixao objected that it was speculative and Judge Villalobos sustained.

After Valente rephrased, Osburn answered that it was impossible for her to lift all the layers of debris herself to reach the place where the baggie was located.

Valente then successfully asked—after numerous objections from DDA Paixao—Osburn if she had processed or received any swabs of DNA from a red Jeep.

Osburn denied that, and stated that she did not have any sort of contact with a Jeep regarding this case.

Defense Attorney Valente also asked if Olson recalled seeing a black baseball cap with an emblem in the Toyota Corolla but DDA Paixao objected on the relevance. Valente argued that it was an important piece of evidence and Judge Villalobos had the jury and Osburn leave the courtroom for five minutes.

After they left, Valente stated that the baseball cap is still there and he is going to inquire if the cap was ever processed for DNA. It could be highly relevant and probative, he said.

DDA Paixao clarified that she objected based on the fact that Valente asked Osburn regarding the emblem—which was a marijuana leaf—but she also did not see the point of analyzing the cap for DNA because they have no photos of anyone wearing that particular cap that day.

Valente argued that the type of emblem is not important and it is more about the fact that the cap has been there in the car since the February processing.

Judge Villalobos allowed Valente to address the baseball cap since there is already testimony that the defendant and victims were on their way to a drug deal so the marijuana leaf emblem will not cause prejudice.

The jury and Osburn returned. Valente asked Osburn if the cap was ever processed and Osburn said no.

Judge Villalobos then dismissed Osburn and the jury for the day.

About The Author

Luke Kyaw is an incoming third-year at UCLA majoring in Public Affairs. He immigrated from Myanmar in 2015 and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

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