BARSTOW • A Lenwood woman whose body was found in open desert near Barstow seven days after her disappearance was likely alive and involved in a struggle with another person near where her body was found, according to testimony offered Friday in the trial of a man charged with murder in her death.
Lawrence Rivera, 39, is charged in the death of Kristina Garcia, whose body was found May 22, 2002. Rivera fled overseas to England, Germany, the Netherlands, and eventually Australia before he could be arrested and was eventually extradited in 2008 after years of appeals.
San Bernardino County Homicide Investigation Supervisor Gerrit Tessllar said two sets of tracks were found near the body, as well as three disturbed areas where a physical struggle likely occurred.
"There were two set of prints, one with smaller feet," said Tessllar in testimony at the Barstow Courthouse. "The prints separate and come together and there is evidence of a struggle."
Garcia's body was found after detectives driving through the desert stopped their SUV when they saw a pile of rocks that resembled a crude burial marker. Although the body was not near the marker detectives saw drag marks that eventually led them to Garcia's body.
The cause of Garcia's death was never definitively determined due to the decomposed state of her body.
Tessllar also offered testimony about Rivera's escape from the United State before he could be arrested on suspicion of murder. After investigators were unable to reach Rivera at his Barstow apartment for a number of days, a call to an airline passenger clearinghouse revealed Rivera took a flight to London, and later Amsterdam.
Tessllar tried to have Rivera held by authorities in the Netherlands, but said bureaucratic difficulties held him up and Rivera was able to fly to Australia, where he remained until being extradited in 2008 after years of appeals.
Tessllar went to Australia in 2008 to accompany Rivera back to California but was unsuccessful. Tessllar said Rivera went on a profanity-laced tirade and was removed from the plane after numerous warnings.
"Rivera was told he was going be kicked off the plane and the (U.S.) Marshals tried to calm him," said Tessllar. "He was removed from the plane and the tirade continued."
A U.S. Government plane delivered Rivera to the Ontario, Calif. airport two weeks later.
Testimony in the case is set to continue January 18 after Judge Cheryl Kersey completes a week of training in San Francisco. If convicted, Rivera could face 25 years to life in prison. Rivera's trial is expected to last through February.
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