By Catherine Hamilton and Katherine Coviello
INDIO, CA – Here in Riverside Superior County, the quadruple homicide trial of Jose Larin-Garcia reconvened with testimony Monday from a senior criminalist and a person messaged by the man the defense claims is the actual murderer.
Larin-Garcia is on trial for the murders of three teenagers and one adult the night of Feb. 3, 2019. The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao, is seeking the death penalty over life in prison without parole.
The defense called Trinity DeWitt to the stand. Questioning began by asking DeWitt about her relationship with John Olvera, who the defense claims is the real murderer, not their client.
On Feb. 5, DeWitt decided to go to the Palm Springs Police Department in response to a direct message conversation she had on Instagram with Olvera’s account.
DeWitt knew Jacob Montgomery, a friend who died as a victim in the case. She posted a tribute in memoriam to her deceased friend on Instagram.
In response to this post, she received a reaction with a laughing emoji from Olvera’s account.
“It’s not funny,” she replied. They proceeded to have a conversation.
“You know what John, I care about him, okay. He was one of my best friends and I had so much love for him and Yuli. I don’t care what type of stupid ass shit was going on with any of you but no one deserves to die no matter how they make you feel or what they say,” DeWitt messaged Olvera at one point.
Olvera’s account replied, “I know you think I’m all happy but now I’m inside sad, I got pain. I never meant that girl to die. He knew he shot me. I shot his ass back. I don’t mean to get that girl killed… he shouldn’t have had that kid female in the car ‘cause he knew I was going to get him… ”
Later in the conversation, Olvera’s account messaged that he knew he could get “locked up” from these messages. DeWitt has not talked to Olvera since these messages were sent.
Earlier, Judge Anthony Villalobos discussed the defense expert witness with the attorneys. The defense, led by private attorney John Dolan, has continued to push back their expert witness’ testimony because of COVID-19.
The expert is not still sick, but the defense does not want him to come in to testify while he still has a bad cough.
DDA Paixao, however, questioned how he could do tests for the case if he was sick. The defense said that he did them on his way back from the ER.
Additionally, DDA Paixao was concerned about how late she received the tests from the expert witness. Nevertheless, both she and Judge Villalobos are worried about the timing of the schedule for witnesses, citing that the defense doesn’t know everyone they will call to the stand.
The defense said they only have two witnesses planned, but were waiting to decide on a DNA expert after the prosecution’s witness finished testifying. They established that the defense’s expert witness would try to come within the next two days.
Once that matter was settled, Chad Eyerly, a Senior Criminalist for the California Department of Justice, was called to the stand by the prosecution to continue his testimony from last week.
DDA Paixao asked Eyerly about the dark jacket found at the scene of the car crash where three of the victims were found, a jacket belonging to Larin-Garcia. He discussed how he had to use an alternate light source to increase the likelihood of seeing staining while examining the jacket for substances.
From the likelihood ratio of the substrate control on the front left exterior panel of the jacket, Eyerly said Larin-Garcia and Jacob Montgomery, one of the victims, were both contributors to the staining on the jacket. This establishes, according to DDA Paixao, the culpability of Larin-Garcia.
The defense cross-examination focused on what the alternate light source actually showed to Eyerly. He said that it increases the contrast between the substrate, or piece of evidence, and a substance possibly on it.
However, it does not actually allow criminalists to identify the substances. Therefore, the stains on the jacket could be anything from blood to dirt, he confessed.
Additionally, Eyerly confirmed that the pictures of the jacket examined and shown to the jury were taken Jan. 14, 2022, and never before, even though the crime was committed in Feb. 2019.
Eyerly also commented on how he prefers to use trace DNA, which is small amounts of DNA deposited somewhere, over touch DNA because he thinks the former is more reliable. It is still hard to truly figure out how trace evidence gets onto objects, though.
The defense asked about the plastic bag and casing found in a car belonging to Larin-Garcia. Eyerly said he did not analyze either piece of evidence for DNA.
Before breaking for lunch, the defense addressed the pictures. Since even Eyerly cannot know for sure that the white specks shown on the jacket in the pictures are blood, they should not be allowed in, the defense said.
However, Judge Villalobos said they could remain in evidence for now. DDA Paixao also stated that she would be resting her case.