By Catherine Hamilton and Sam Alcaraz
RIVERSIDE, CA –The quadruple homicide trial of Jose Larin-Garcia reconvened after the holiday break here Thursday in Riverside County Superior Court with the discussion—not before the jury—of what evidence will be presented when a key witness testifies Monday before the full jury.
Larin-Garcia is accused of murdering three teenagers and one adult the night of Feb. 3, 2019. The prosecution is arguing for the death penalty.
During the defense’s opening statement at the end of November, private defense attorney John Dolan told the jury the defense thought another man, John Olvera, was responsible for the four murders. Olvera was reportedly seen walking away from where Larin-Garcia was found moments after police arrived.
Olvera will testify in front of the jury on Monday.
The investigator said that Olvera had told him he would kill Jacob Montgomery, one of the victims, and Larin-Garcia because of “street beef.” The investigator said Olvera had a physical fight with Montgomery outside of a Rite Aid, and had a disagreement over drug sales of Xanax with Larin-Garcia.
After the investigator left the courtroom, defense Attorney Dolan, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao, and Judge Anthony Villabolos discussed what evidence would be shown in front of the jury Monday when Olvera was on the witness stand.
Judge Villabolos said that, for some of the evidence, he would need time over the weekend to consider whether it could be submitted in court. Most of the evidence consisted of Facebook messages and social media posts from Olvera, as well as some rap lyrics he had written.
The defense claims Olvera had rapped “I’m gonna shoot” people “in the face” on Feb. 1, 2019, two days before the quadruple homicide. The defense wants to bring this rap in front of the jury because Montgomery, one of the victims Olvera had a “street beef” with, was shot in the face.
However, DDA Paixao told the court Thursday this doesn’t show anything substantial about Olvera’s culpability. Olvera has said he does not know the first person murdered, Carlos Campos, and there have been no clear ties found between them.
According to DDA Paixao, if Olvera was guilty, he would have killed Larin-Garcia or Montgomery first since they were both there. Judge Villabolos said he would decide on this evidence over the weekend.
Another piece of evidence was Olvera allegedly stating he would kill his mother for $30, something said in a message, social media post, or in a rap.
Judge Villabolos said it would not be allowed in front of the jury, a decision both sides agreed to, because it just characterizes Olvera as a bad person but doesn’t add anything to an attempt to portray him as guilty of the crime before the jury.
The defense also submitted for review a quote from Olvera that showed him bragging about being released from the police. He had said “they done f***ked up and freed your boy,” which the defense believes is practically an admission of guilt from Olvera.
DDA Paixao disagreed, and cited the statement as Olvera making an “exaggeration,” because he was never actually arrested by the police. They had come to his house to ask questions, but he had not gone to the police station. DDA Paixao said that Olvera has the delusion of living in the rapper world, even though he is not a legitimate rapper.
Judge Villabolos said he would announce his decision Monday morning about whether that piece of evidence would be allowed in front of the jury.
Another piece of evidence Judge Villabolos had an issue with was a picture of Olvera pointing a 38 mm handgun at the camera. He thought it was misleading because a 9 mm handgun was the murder weapon.
DDA Paixao’s main argument against most of the evidence was that Olvera is not a credible person because he has allegedly “lied” about his age in Facebook messages multiple times and exaggerates many statements.
Olvera also said, “I used a 9 at Zelda’s,” a statement alluding to a murder at Zelda’s nightclub at the end of Jan. 2019.
A 9 mm gun was not the murder weapon in that case, however, but the case is still open so the police cannot talk in depth about it. Olvera has not been proven to have been related to the case in any way.
Judge Villabolos will let the prosecution and defense know his decision about the extent of what will be acceptable in Olvera’s testimony Monday morning before the jury comes in.