Unusual bullet casings collected at the scene of what is believed to be the worst mass killing in Palm Springs history matched those found in a stockpile of ammunition found at the accused gunman’s apartment, a detective testified Friday.
Jose Larin-Garcia, 19, of Cathedral City, is accused of fatally shooting Jacob Montgomery, 19, Juan Duarte Raya, 18, and Yuliana Garcia, 17, who were found dead inside a Toyota Corolla that crashed into a parked Jeep at 11:40 p.m. Feb. 3 at Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads. He is also accused in the shooting death of 25-year-old Carlos Campos Rivera, who was found 30 minutes later on Canon Drive south of Theresa Drive, about a half-mile away from the other three victims.
Police said both shootings were related, although they have never outlined a possible motive for the crimes. In court Friday, a deputy district attorney said all of the victims had been shot in the head.
During a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for Larin-Garcia to stand trial on murder charges, Detective Jason Lamb from the Palm Springs Police Department said he discovered bullet casings in Larin-Garcia’s apartment on Feb. 4 that were consistent with those found inside the Corolla.
Lamb said similar “headstamps,” or markings on the bottom of the casing, found at Larin-Garcia’s apartment matched those found in the car, and that the headstamps were not very common.
Several rounds of ammunition, a full Glock magazine, gun-cleaning supplies and a bloody long-sleeved shirt were also found during the search, Lamb said.
In earlier testimony, Palm Springs police Officer William Moss said he was responding to reports of a shooting on Sunny Dunes Road the night of Feb. 3 when he spotted a person lying under a Dodge Ram pickup truck near Sunny Dunes and Desert Way, about two blocks from the crash where three victims were found.
“From where I was at first, I couldn’t tell if he was actually awake or not, so I gave him several orders to roll out from underneath the truck,” Moss said.
The officer said the man, who turned out to be Larin-Garcia, was initially hesitant to get out from under the truck, but he eventually did. No gun was found on him, but Moss said he later found Honda keys, a black jacket, black shoes and a cell phone under the truck.
“He appeared to have some blood on his arms and hands and shirt,” Moss said.
Officer Luciano Colantuono, who assisted Moss at the scene, testified that Larin-Garcia seemed nervous, and when the officer asked Larin-Garcia if he was OK, he responded, “I am not OK. I just witnessed a murder.”
Larin-Garcia was taken to the Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment of about 15 abrasions, including a significant abrasion on his right shoulder, Palm Springs police Officer Stephanie Sandoval testified.
Larin-Garcia fell asleep several times while in the hospital and gave several fake names and dates of births, Sandoval said. She said Larin-Garcia’s eyes were watery and red, and he had a “strong smell of alcohol.” He was not actually arrested until a day later at a Greyhound bus station in Indio.
Prosecutors said in court Friday that DNA of the blood found on one of Larin-Garcia’s shoes matched Raya, while blood on his jacket matched Montgomery.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Jarred Bishop testified that Larin-Garcia told sheriff’s agents posing as inmates at a jail in Banning after his arrest that he was “screwed.”
“He also relayed that he was concerned that his mother might also possibly be involved or possibly be charged as an accessory in this case and knew that law enforcement found (a) gun,” Bishop said.
No other detail was discussed during the hearing about how or why Larin-Garcia’s mother could potentially be implicated in the murder case.
Another police officer, Jonathan Mosley, testified that he responded to the scene of the reported traffic crash at Sunny Dunes and El Placer and found the three victims inside the Toyota.
Mosley said that while he was securing the scene, he saw a person limping away from the area.
“I observed a subject in all dark clothing as he ran eastbound on Sunny Dunes away from the location. He ran with a limp and he was hunched over,” Mosley testified. “He was slender.”
Larin-Garcia is described in jail records as being 230 pounds.
Defense Attorney John Patrick Dolan has insisted his client did not carry out the killings. He said Larin-Garcia knew Montgomery, but he could not confirm any relationships with any of the other victims. The defense attorney told KESQ earlier this week that Larin-Garcia had been in the Corolla with the three victims.
Larin-Garcia is facing four counts of murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, opening him to a possible death sentence. He is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
The preliminary hearing is expected to continue Monday.
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