Quadruple Homicide Trial Proceeds with Testimony from Responding Investigator and Defense Expert Witness

By Catherine Hamilton, Ashleen Herrarte and Sahaily Zazueta

RIVERSIDE, CA – The quadruple homicide trial of Jose Vladimir Larin-Garcia reconvened Monday in Riverside Superior Court as the defense and prosecution debated which photographs could be brought into evidence, and which witnesses could testify and about what.

Larin-Garcia has been accused of murdering three teenagers and one adult in Palm Springs on Feb. 3, 2019. The three teenagers were found shot dead after a car accident in one of the victim’s green Toyota Corolla, while the adult victim was found a few streets over.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty over life in prison with parole.

Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao began by discussing the different photos of 9mm and the clicks that had been brought in.

The defense, led by private attorney John Dolan, raised the claim that they had not seen these photos prior to today’s trial, which led to Judge Anthony Villalobos ending the discussion with “we don’t need these comments, counsel.”

Once they were able to continue, the prosecution began by addressing evidence introduced by DDA Paixao, which included 9mm magazines, ammunition, rounds, and bullets that had been separated. Judge Villalobos saw this as “strange, unique” since there were various types of clicks within the separated cases.

The prosecution then presented Edman Escallada, a detective for Palm Springs Police Department, the assistant lead detective in the case.

DDA Paixao began by asking if he had seen Larin-Garcia at the crime scene with a black jacket. Escallada confirmed and was later instructed to fill out paperwork for the Department of Justice to examine the jacket.

Then DDA Paixao turned her attention toward Escallada and the gang impact team that went to the apartment that belonged to Larin-Garcia.

The team and Escallada searched Larin-Garcia’s room, and DDA Paixao presented different photos that showed what was found in the room. One thing that was clearly noted by the prosecutor was that there were five different brands of ammunition found within Larin-Garcia’s room.

Escallada had prior experience with firearms and so DDA Paixao asked about whether bullets that were 9mm could be interchangeable between different types of Glocks or non-Glocks. He confirmed that this was possible with the firearms that were found in the room.

Escallada was also questioned about the audio recording Larin-Garcia’s mother has where he said in Spanish, “Mom, it’s me, they’re going to arrest me.” Escallada assumed at the time that Larin-Garcia was at the hospital.

The defense began by asking Escallada if Larin-Garcia’s mother had cooperated. The prosecution raised an objection as to whether she told the truth. Judge Villalobos sustained the objection for the prosecution.

The defense was interested as to whether Escallada knew of the thin, tall, injured person who was running away from the crime scene.

DDA Paixao raised an objection since the person had not been said to be injured nor did they know the gender. The defense raised the point that there was an individual who limped away from the scene, but Escallada said he only learned of the person in a later briefing.

The defense also mentioned how there has been an individual named John Olvera who had confessed to the case on social media. The defense asked Escallada whether they searched Olvera’s property or person, or if a DNA sample was taken from him. The answer to all the questions was no.

When the defense and prosecution reconvened in the afternoon, DDA Paixao addressed Judge Villalobos with an issue she had with the defense.

DDA Paixao was concerned that she had received last-minute notification from the defense that their expert witness Darrell Clardy would be questioned regarding the effects of marijuana and methamphetamine.

DDA Paixao stated that the defense had previously agreed that Clardy would only be allowed to testify about blood alcohol levels and the conversion of whole blood to plasma. She charged the defense was withholding information from the prosecution.

DDA Paixao also asked the defense how questioning Clardy on methamphetamine and marijuana would be relevant, because there was no evidence of methamphetamine use in this case.

Private attorney Dolan stated his questions to Clardy regarding meth were relevant because witness, and possible suspect, John Olvera had previously testified that he had used meth every day for three years before the murder occurred in 2019.

Dolan stated, “I think we have the right to ask a blood alcohol and drug expert what do you expect to see from a person who is a long-time meth user.”

Judge Villalobos responded, “We don’t have any sort of urine, blood, anything regarding Mr. Olvera and whether at the time that this occurred he was high on meth.” Dolan stated, “He told us that he used it every day until November of 2021.”

Judge Villalobos added, “He also told us that he didn’t have a job. I still don’t have any evidence that he was high on meth on that date when this occurred.”

Dolan replied, “Except for his testimony.”

Judge Villalobos responded, “Again counsel, everything he said was highly… I mean he was all over the place,” but the judge allowed Clardy to be called in and questioned in a hearing outside of the jury to see if evidence regarding methamphetamine would be admissible as evidence.

The defense asked Clardy about the behaviors of long-time meth users. Clardy stated that he has had experience where meth users have displayed violent behavior.

After the hearing, Judge Villalobos ruled that questioning Clardy on the effects of methamphetamine would not be allowed because it was propensity evidence, and its admission would be more prejudicial than probative.

The jury was called into the courtroom, and the trial resumed.

Detective Escallada was called back to the witness stand to conclude his testimony.

The defense stated that Escallada had previously testified that there was a bullet on a green sheet in the bedroom. The defense asked if that bullet was actually between the mattress and the box spring. Escallada confirmed the bullet’s location.

The defense asked if Escallada had investigated the source of the particular brand of ammunition that was found in the bedroom. Escallada responded that he had not, and confirmed the defense’s question that there were no search warrants at any location where he found the same type of ammunition.

Escallada also confirmed that there was only one ammunition box of a particular brand that was found in the bedroom.

The defense then called their witness, Clardy, a forensic toxicologist, to the stand.

Clardy testified that Erin Crabtrey’s analysis of Larin-Garcia’s blood alcohol level was accurate. Crabtrey’s conversion from plasma to whole blood, which revealed a whole blood value of .137, was consistent with his own conversions.

Clardy testified that individuals with a blood value of .137 can show signs of mental impairment and experience slurred speech, memory problems and vision problems.

Dolan asked Clardy about the behaviors of an individual with a high blood alcohol level who is also on marijuana. Clardy testified that marijuana could worsen an individual’s mental and physical impairment, or have no additional effect.

Clardy also testified that an individual’s gross motor skills are also significantly affected with a blood alcohol level above .15. An individual with this blood alcohol level would be poorly coordinated, he said, adding, “If he needs something that has fine coordination, precision, holding and reacting properly, it’s very hard at these levels to accomplish those things.”

DDA Paixao asked Clardy if he could confirm that marijuana could have no additional effects on an individual with a high blood alcohol level. Clardy agreed.

Larin-Garcia’s very long-running trial will resume Tuesday, Feb. 1

About The Author

Catherine is a freshman at UCLA, double majoring in English and Political Science. She is from Atlanta, Georgia.

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