By Jake Romero
INDIO, CA — The quadruple homicide trial of Jose Larin-Garcia resumed Wednesday at the Larson Justice Center/Riverside County Superior Court where the prosecution aimed to impeach the testimony of a witness who testified earlier tht he was close friends with three of the victims.
Larin-Garcia is charged with murdering four people in Palm Springs on the night of Feb. 3, 2019. Three teenage victims were found inside a crashed car and another 25-year-old victim was found on a nearby street, according to news reports.
The prosecution recalled witness Saul Murillo to the stand today in an effort to impeach his testimony. Murillo previously testified on Dec. 2, 2021, and recanted portions of the statements he made to police in February 2019.
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked about a fourth person who Murillo claimed to have seen with the group.
Murillo told police in 2019 that he did not know the man but described him as heavy-set with dark skin, and said one victim referred to him as “Vladis.” DDA Paixao said earlier in the trial that Vladis refers to Larin-Garcia’s middle name, Vladimir, according to the Desert Sun coverage.
Murillo maintained that there was another person with the victims, but said it was actually one of their cousins. Murillo described the cousin, who he considered a “best friend,” as having curly hair, but he testified Wednesday that the man he saw was bald and he previously told police in 2019 that the man had short hair.
DDA Paixao noted that the cousin is now deceased and cannot take the stand to deny his involvement.
Murillo told police in 2019 that he had met up with his friends at 11:20 p.m.—shortly before the murders—but testified last month that he saw them at 9:30 p.m.
He told DDA Paixao Wednesday he was with another friend at In-N-Out in Thousand Palms around the time of the murders, and that he previously based his timeline on early news reports. Murillo took nearly one minute to remember the name of this friend, whom he claimed to only know by a nickname.
“What’s the word on the street about snitching?” DDA Paixao asked.
“I don’t like snitches myself,” answered Murillo, saying that it was a “code of rule.” When asked what that code of rule is, Murillo responded, “I can’t say no more.”
During cross-examination, Murillo told defense attorney Anthony Valente that his testimony is part of an immunity agreement with the District Attorney’s office. Murillo said it was true that he had no reason to lie about any part of his testimony.
The prosecution’s next witness was Francisco Salgado, a Palm Springs police officer who spoke with Murillo in February 2019.
Saldago said Murillo told him about meeting with the three victims at 11:20 p.m. and also described “Vladis” and said that, although it was dark, he would be able to recognize him, according to Salgado.
Salgado also testified that he spoke with Murillo later that same day over the phone. He said that Murillo did not identify the fourth individual as a victim’s cousin nor did he claim to be unsure about the time of the meetup or his description of Vladis during either conversation.
DDA Paixao also questioned Salgado about his interaction with John Olvera on Feb. 7, 2019. The defense has suggested that Olvera, who testified on Monday, is truly responsible for the murders.
Salgado said he went to Olvera’s residence regarding Facebook posts and Instagram direct messages that suggested Olvera’s involvement in the murders.
Olvera told Salgado that the Facebook posts—which talked of shooting people in the face and killing people at a nightclub—were song lyrics and he denied sending the Instagram direct messages.
Olvera testified on Monday that he had lost the phone containing his social media accounts sometime in January 2019.
Salgado also testified that Olvera reported being home the entire day of the murders and that he consented to his phone being taken for a forensic search.
During cross-examination, Salgado told private Defense Attorney John Dolan that he did not obtain a search warrant prior to arriving at Olvera’s residence, despite Olvera being a possible suspect.
Attorney Dolan noted that another police officer claimed to have seen a man fitting Olvera’s description leaving the crime scene where the lone victim was found.
Both Murillo and Salgado were dismissed from the stand with the possibility of being recalled later in the trial.