By Darling Gonzalez, Tommy Nguyen and Ava Schwartzapfel
RIVERSIDE, CA- The long-running, quadruple murder trial of Jose Larin-Garcia escalated this Thursday here in Riverside County Superior Court as an expert explained the DNA findings from examinations of multiple samples found on the scene, and on the suspect himself.
Prior to the trial, not in front of the jury, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao and Defense Attorney John Dolan presented their disagreements on multiple corrections and jury instructions that were to be presented on the record.
For jury instructions, there was a question on whether witnesses were given immunity or leniency for their testimony, to which DDA Paixao objected.
DDA Paixao explained that witnesses would not be receiving leniency at all and wanted the word to be stricken.
However, Dolan expressed that leniency would eventually be given to witnesses due to their immunity agreements.
“When [the witnesses] testify with immunity they are going to get some leniency somewhere down the road,” Dolan argued.
DDA Paixao then replied, “Your Honor it needs to be stricken if that’s the inference that the defense is going to hold in its regard. The immunity agreements have been written up, have been fully explained, there is no leniency that will be happening in any regard.”
Based on the immunity agreements, Judge Villalobos stated that the witnesses were only promised immunity and there had been a discussion on the record about the agreements as well.
Since there was no promise of leniency, Judge Villalobos decided to modify the jury instruction and strike the mention of leniency.
Later, Judge Villalobos asked the prosecution and defense if they had any objections to the instructions mentioning Larin-Garcia’s attempt to hide evidence. Dolan objected because he claimed that there was no evidence of Larin-Garcia having a gun.
“The People’s position is,” DDA Paixao emphasized, “not only did the defendant hide the weapon, in addition to when he was found hiding under that truck, he also had removed his jacket and shoes.”
DDA Paixao expressed that Larin-Garcia was attempting to get away from the items that had the victim’s blood and believed it should be up to the jury to make the determination of the evidence, given that it gave the impression of Larin-Garcia’s intent to hide the weapon.
Dolan then replied, “As to the gun, that is the People’s argument again. There is zero evidence that he hid a weapon; they’ve had canvassing and metal detectors out there. There’s no evidence that any weapon was hidden anywhere in his vicinity.”
Judge Villalobos, though considering Dolan’s argument, repeatedly expressed doubts about Larin-Garcia’s behavior that night, noting that his only issue with the defense was that Larin-Garcia removed his jacket on a cold evening.
“[The shoes and the jacket] were already off with him under the truck,” Dolan explained. “There was no intent to hide anything.”
In response, DDA Paixao stated, “Four people were executed by firearm. If the jury finds that the defendant is culpable of any of those murders, then they would naturally infer that he hid the firearm and be instructed how to use that [evidence].”
Judge Villalobos decided that the jury instructions about Larin-Garcia’s attempt to hide evidence would be provided to the jury as requested by the prosecution.
“It was a cold evening and he took off his jacket and shoes and it looked like it was trying to be hidden somehow,” Judge Villalobos concluded.
After modifying jury instructions, the trial resumed later that afternoon with a questioning of witness Chad Eyerly—a Senior Criminalist for the California Department of Justice.
He explained that the main part of his job is that “I am responsible for examining and analyzing physical evidence which may generate genetic information or DNA profiles that can then be compared to known reference profiles from known individuals” and that he often appears in court to present such evidence.
The next thing that Paixao focused on was clarifying the specific steps of the process that Eyerly and his team use to process DNA from physical evidence.
After much back and forth, it was decided that the six steps of this process can be described as: “Extraction, quantification, amplification, DNA typing, interpretation, and comparison.”
From this process, criminalists are able to rule out whether or not a specific individual’s DNA is a part of a specific sample, Eyerly said.
The senior criminalist then explained that DNA is often found in bodily fluids such as “blood, semen, saliva, vaginal fluid and sweat,” and things such as “bone, teeth, hair roots, et cetera.”
He also explained that DNA keeps its structure when it is removed from the body and can last “quite a long time,” even decades, outside of the body if stored correctly.
DDA Paixao then drew the court’s attention to the report that Eyerly released after he had done this DNA investigation on multiple pieces of hard evidence pertaining to this case.
Primarily, Eyerly explained the results that he gathered from a blood spatter that was found on a shoe that suspect Larin-Garcia had allegedly discarded after this incident.
“This item resulted in a DNA mixture of at least two contributors. I say at least because it is impossible to note the true amount of contributors to a sample but we are using our education, knowledge, and experience to determine how many we believe in a sample,” Eyerly stated.
Victims Jacob Montgomery and Juan Duarte Raya were found to be two likely contributors to this DNA mixture, he said.
The next major piece of hard evidence that was examined pertaining to this case was an apparent blood stain found on the inside collar of a jacket that was also allegedly taken off by Larin-Garcia in his alleged attempt to hide under a pickup truck.
The blood stain from the jacket, as well as a secondary stain found on the sole of the shoe, contains one major male contributor, stated Eyerly.
“This provides strong evidence that Jose Larin-Garcia is the major contributor to the DNA mixture detected” the senior criminalist said regarding these blood samples, though the other victims in this case were not found to be the major contributors to these samples, they cannot be excluded as minor contributors.
The following sample that was examined regarding this case was an apparent blood swap from “inside door handle.”
Eyerly explained that he was able to conclude one major male contributor and at least one minor contributor to the DNA mixture that is this sample.
“Jacob Montgomery was included as a potential major contributor to this DNA mixture,” the witness said.
The court was ordered back on Monday morning, Feb. 7, at 9 a.m.