Jury shouldn’t see ‘hor­rific’ pho­tos of Mon­talvo’s body, at­tor­ney says

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Monivette Cordeiro mcordeiro@or­lan­dosen­tinel .com shu­dak@or­lan­dosen­tinel .com

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.

Fun Spot’s John Arie Jr. said the park wants to open Fri­day.

Ga­tor­land wants to open Satur­day. The park cre­ated a char­ac­ter – the so­cial-dis­tanc­ing skunk ape – to re­mind guests to stay 6 feet apart.

“We’re ready to safely open our park,” said CEO Mark McHugh. “Our so­cial-dis­tanc­ing skunk ape is get­ting a lit­tle wound up. He’s kind of antsy and ready to go.”


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