Defense says second suspect was at scenes in Palm Springs quadruple homicide

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Attorneys for the man charged with four 2019 Palm Springs homicides began to develop their defense on Tuesday, questioning the integrity of the prosecution's investigation and raising the possibility that an unidentified passenger was in the car at the time of the killings.

The trial of Jose Vladimir Larin Garcia, 22, began Monday with Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao describing him as “the executioner” in four fatal shootings. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

John Dolan, Larin Garcia's attorney, introduced the idea during his opening statements Tuesday that a fifth passenger might have been in the green Toyota Corolla where three dead people were found, and presumably fled.

“One person left the scene, that person is Mr. Olvera,” Dolan said.

It's not the first mention of John Olvera in the quadruple homicide case.

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Palm Springs Police Officer Francisco Salgado testified during a preliminary hearing in February 2019 that he interviewed Olvera in connection with the crime. Olvera had allegedly sent messages on social media that he was tied to the killings, but Salgado said Olvera later denied this.

Larin Garcia has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges connected to the deaths of Carlos Campos Rivera, 25; Jacob Montgomery, 19; Juan Duarte Raya, 18; and Yuliana Garcia, 17.

Jose Vladimir Larin Garcia looks on as the courtroom breaks for a recess during his quadruple homicide trial at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, November 29, 2021. Garcia stands accused of murder in the deaths of four young people in Palm Springs in February of 2019.

More: District attorney to seek death penalty in Palm Springs quadruple homicide case

More: Palm Springs quadruple killing: A timeline of events

The four were fatally shot just before midnight on Feb. 3, 2019, minutes and mere blocks apart. Rivera was found dead on Canon Drive, prone in the street with a gunshot wound to the head and arm, according to testimony. The other three were found dead in a car that had crashed into a brick wall in front of a residence on the 3700 block of East Sunny Dunes Road.

Dolan characterized the possibility of a fifth passenger in the vehicle as supported by witness testimony and as a failure in the prosecution's investigation.

Dolan said witnesses told police that they saw a tall, slender man leaving the scene with a limp. Dolan has drawn attention to Larin Garcia's stature as neither tall nor slender.

Dolan also said that the possibility of another suspect is underscored by the fact that the police never found the murder weapon.

“About two years since there has never been a weapon found in the area where Mr. Larin Garcia was found under the truck,” Dolan told jurors. “There're no eye witnesses. There's no gunshot residue.”

Police were dispatched to the two scenes around 11:40 after receiving calls of shots fired and a traffic collision. Larin Garcia was found hiding under a parked truck blocks away from the crashed Corolla. He had lacerations and other injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao says the victims were shot execution style in the Jose Vladimir Larin Garcia quadruple homicide trial at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, November 29, 2021. Garcia is accused of murdering four young people in Palm Springs in February of 2019.

Paixao told the jury during opening statements that Larin Garcia then left the hospital and went to a friend's home, who helped him gather his belongings and purchase a bus ticket under a false name. Larin Garcia was arrested at a bus station in Indio on Feb. 5.

Dolan characterized the prosecution's case against Larin Garcia as “outrageous,” and weakened by their failure to find the murder weapon and meaningfully investigate Olvera as a suspect.

“It is unfair that this young man is being charged with these murders with this paucity of evidence,” Dolan said.

Christopher Damien covers public safety and the criminal justice system. He can be reached at christopher.damien@desertsun.com or follow him at @chris_a_damien.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs quadruple homicide trial: Defense says 2nd suspect was present

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