Jury shouldn’t see ‘horrific’ photos of Montalvo’s body, attorney says
Jurors shouldn’t be allowed to see “gruesome and horrific” photos showing the dismembered body of slain St. Cloud mother Nicole Montalvo without a judge’s approval because it would be “prejudicial” to the estranged husband accused in her killing, his attorney argued Sunday.
Christopher Otero-Rivera, 32, is charged with second-degree murder, abuse of a dead body and evidence tampering in his wife’s death. His father, 63-year-old Angel Rivera, was also indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the 33-year-old mother’s killing.
Montalvo was divorcing Otero-Rivera before she disappeared Oct. 21 after dropping off her 8-year-old son at the Riveras’ home on Hixon Avenue. Prosecutors say her body was burned, cut into pieces and buried on properties belonging to the Rivera family.
Otero-Rivera’s defense attorney, Migdalia Perez, said she believes prosecutors plan to show jurors during the trial “numerous” photos of Montalvo’s partially decomposed corpse, taken at the crime scene, during an autopsy and while being examined by a forensic anthropologist.
“These photographs are also gruesome and horrific in nature,” Perez argued in a motion. “The introduction of said photographs would be extremely inflammatory and prejudicial to [OteroRivera].”
Perez said Montalvo’s cause of death and the condition her body was found in will not be the “subject of dispute” at trial, so the photos are not necessary to prove these facts. But they could “distract” the jury and “create an undue prejudice” in their minds, she argued.
“The introduction of inflammatory and gruesome photographs, in the absence of any dispute regarding the cause of death or condition of the body when discovered by the law enforcement officers, would be improper and would warrant a mistrial,” Perez said.
Otero-Rivera’s attorneys also asked a judge Sunday to move the trial away from Osceola County to another county like Hillsborough, Palm Beach or Broward where “community prejudice” against their client does not exist.
The press “conducted a continuous campaign of sensational stories” on Otero-Rivera and provided “extensive media attention” to the public feud between Osceola Sheriff Russ Gibson
and Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala over when to arrest the suspects and on what charges.
Ultimately, Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Ayala’s office from the case and reassigned it to Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King.
Montalvo’s husband and father-in-law are scheduled to stand trial June 8, though that will likely be delayed because jury trials are suspended through July 2 to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“[Otero-Rivera] cannot get a fair trial by an impartial jury in Osceola County because of the extensive, inflammatory and prejudicial pretrial publicity in this case,” defense attorneys said.
Otero-Rivera and his father are being held at the Osceola County Jail without bond. and our guests safe. Employees will be tested. Temperatures monitored and they will wear masks and be trained on proper practices,” he said. “We’ll manage social-distances in queue lines…”
The small attractions began a push last week to convince Demings to try to persuade the governor that those businesses should be allowed to open sooner than what is called for in DeSantis’ plan. The local recovery task force is expected to take up the matter later in the week.
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Gatorland wants to open Saturday. The park created a character – the social-distancing skunk ape – to remind guests to stay 6 feet apart.
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