Updated 12:09 p.m. Aug. 11: A Redwood City man has pleaded guilty to the murder of Roberto Rivera, the laborer shot to death while working in a south Los Altos backyard in May.
Edgar Geovani Lainez-Portillo, 25, pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge with a firearm enhancement last week in Santa Clara County Superior Court. He faces a prison term of 50 years to life when sentenced. California’s Youthful Offender Parole laws mean Lainez-Portillo may be eligible for early release after serving 25 years because he was under 26 when he committed the crime.
Following the Aug. 4 hearing, Deputy District Attorney Bryan Slater said it’s unusual for a defendant to plea as charged, but he added that Lainez-Portillo’s was a “pretty straightforward case.”
“I think it’s a testament to a very strong case that the Los Altos Police Department, the DA Bureau of Investigation, the Palo Alto Police Department, the Mountain View Police Department and the San Jose Police Department put together,” Slater said.
The agencies collaborated to process the crime scene and track down leads after Rivera’s May 4 murder. The Union City resident, 48, died from gunshots he sustained while completing masonry work in the backyard of a Highlands Circle home. The shooter fled the scene on a sport motorcycle, but investigators linked Lainez-Portillo to the crime through video surveillance at the residence and through a woman who said she once dated both men, according to a statement of facts written by Los Altos Police Department Sgt. Cameron Shearer.
The ex-girlfriend told police that though Lainez-Portillo “exhibited jealousy about another boyfriend, he had never expressed any serious jealousy towards victim Rivera,” Shearer wrote.
While attending a party days after the shooting, Lainez-Portillo told another woman he “had done something bad” and admitted to killing someone, Shearer wrote.
Following Rivera’s death, Los Altos-based Mothers Against Murder (MAM) established a $10,000 reward for an arrest and conviction in the case. Later, the nonprofit’s leaders set up a memorial education fund for Rivera’s two teenage children.
Margaret Petros, MAM executive director, spoke to the children’s mother the night before the plea hearing. Petros said the family is relieved they won’t have to suffer through a trial, but they still desire answers about why the crime occurred in the first place.
“To victims, it’s always frustrating: How can he admit guilt and not give any details?” Petros said.
A statement issued by MAM Thursday expresses the organization’s commitment to helping Rivera’s family learn more about Lainez-Portillo’s motivations. It also thanks Slater for his “compassionate manner” and the Public Defender’s Office for “doing right by their client, by (the) victim’s family, by the criminal justice system and the public at large” by helping bring about a speedy resolution to the case.
Lainez-Portillo’s sentencing hearing is scheduled 8:30 a.m. Oct. 14.
MAM is still accepting donations to an education fund for Rivera’s children. To donate and for more information, visit mothersagainstmurder.org/roberto-rivera.
Mothers Against Murder statement:
The defendant's decision, at this very early stage, to plead guilty to first degree murder and admitting he used a firearm is shocking to us. It takes 3-5 years to bring such cases to conclusion, re-traumatizing survivors and wasting millions of tax-payers' dollars. We want to thank the Public Defender's Office for doing right by their client, by victim's family, by the criminal justice system, and by the public at large. We welcome such expeditious conclusions, but we also must be extremely cautious and respectful in how this decision affects victim's family. A guilty plea in itself, without the details of why the defendant killed Roberto, is not good enough. In all murder cases, victim's family want to know exactly why, how and when their loved one was killed. The detailed information combined with accountability starts a healthier healing process. At MAM, we are committed to supporting Roberto's family for as long as needed; to help them understand how the criminal justice process work and to empower them to ask questions and get the answers to ensure their safety and security, both physically and emotionally. Sincere thanks to Deputy District Attorney Bryan Slater for his professional and compassionate manner with his work in dealing with this tragic case. We also wish to thank the public who sent in their condolences and financial support to the memorial fund to support victim's children. Last, but not least, we want to thank the media for the sensitive coverage to bring awareness and sympathy to a violent and senseless killing of an innocent man. May Roberto rest in peace.
Margaret Petros, Executive Director
Mothers Against Murder