Orlando Sentinel

Investigat­ors detail search for Montalvo’s body at trial

- By Monivette Cordeiro

Two neighbors who noticed an excavator on their street sparked the search that led to law enforcemen­t finding body parts belonging to St. Cloud woman Nicole Montalvo, investigat­ors told jurors Thursday.

Montalvo, 33, went missing Oct. 21, 2019, after dropping off her 8-year-old son at the home of her estranged husband, 33-yearold Christophe­r Otero-Rivera, and father-in-law, 64-year-old Angel Rivera.

Both men, who have pleaded not guilty, are charged with second-degree murder, abuse of a body and evidence tampering in Montalvo’s killing and dismemberi­ng.

During the murder trial at the Osceola County Courthouse for the father and son, John Hall Jr. testified that he was driving home when he noticed multiple people using an excavator to dig a hole on a property off Henry J Avenue that belonged to the Rivera family.

Another neighbor, Gary Guthrie, told jurors that Angel Rivera waved to him while driving an excavator down Henry J Avenue in the same week that Montalvo went missing.

Both neighbors called law enforcemen­t, who were already searching the 5-acre property where the Riveras lived on nearby Hixon Avenue.

Investigat­ors found the excavator and disturbed earth on the Henry J Avenue parcel, said Emily Seda, a forensic unit supervisor with the Osceola County Sheriff ’s Office. After digging for days, they uncovered a human head with hair, then a severed hand and feet, Seda told jurors.

Forensic technician­s also testified about an earlier search at the Hixon Avenue property where they found two areas of interest, including a “randomly placed”

flatbed trailer surrounded by foliage and fencing.

Underneath the trailer, they began excavating and discovered flesh, as well as a foul odor, Seda said.

As they continued digging, they discovered more human remains, torn fabric, and pieces of black plastic, wood and cardboard. Some of what was found had a “burn smell,” said Selena Melendez, an OCSO forensic technician.

Those remains matched DNA samples collected from Montalvo’s parents.

At a second site, Seda said technician­s found a mound of ash and a pile of charred branches. Inside the pile were clothing that was charred, a bandana, fabric and jewelry.

Seda testified that neither the clothing nor the bandana were submitted for further testing while under cross-examinatio­n from one of Otero-Rivera’s defense attorneys, Migdalia Perez.

Prosecutor­s say Montalvo’s husband and father-inlaw desired custody of the couple’s shared son.

Otero-Rivera’s defense attorneys, though, blamed his father for Montalvo’s killing and said Angel Rivera treated the couple’s son like a “possession.”

Jurors heard from about a dozen witnesses Wednesday, including Otero-Rivera’s brother, Nicholas Rivera.

Nicholas Rivera, who is incarcerat­ed after taking a plea deal on multiple child pornograph­y charges, testified he saw his father, Angel Rivera, hosing off a cart outside their home hours after Montalvo went missing. Law enforcemen­t witnesses testified that blood was found on the cart, which led to them finding a partial DNA profile. It matched Montalvo’s DNA profile, they said.

Prosecutor­s said jurors will begin trial Friday with testimony from the medical examiner.

 ?? JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? Defense counsel assists accused killer Christophe­r Otero-Rivera, the estranged husband of victim Nicole Montalvo, with his mask in Osceola Circuit Court in Kissimmee on Tuesday.
JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL Defense counsel assists accused killer Christophe­r Otero-Rivera, the estranged husband of victim Nicole Montalvo, with his mask in Osceola Circuit Court in Kissimmee on Tuesday.

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