OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. (WESH) — A father and son were sentenced Wednesday for the 2019 murder of Osceola County mother Nicole Montalvo.
Christopher Otero-Rivera and his father, Angel Rivera, were found guilty on all charges in Montalvo’s murder. They had been charged with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and abuse of a human body.
Judge Keith Carsons delivered the sentence after Montalvo’s family delivered heartbreaking victim statements.
“I cannot ignore the brutality of your efforts to cover up that crime or the pain it brought the family of Nicole Montalvo,” he said.
Both Christopher Otero-Rivera and Angel Rivera were sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder. Additionally, they both received another 15 years for dismembering a human body and another five for tampering with evidence.
Both of their attorneys said they will appeal the sentence.
The attorney for Christopher Otero-Rivera argued there was no direct evidence that proved Christopher was the one who murdered Nicole Montalvo. She implied it could have been Otero-Rivera’s father, Angel Rivera, who committed the murder.
The defense asked the judge to consider a “lawful” sentence, which would be 23 years up to life in prison.
One prosecutor, Ryan Williams, touting the importance of retribution, said “when the court makes sure criminals are punished for their crimes, it keeps family members from taking matters into their own hands.”
Williams praised the Montalvo family for their dignity and restraint through the trial.
He stated that both Christopher Otero-Rivera and his father, Angel Rivera, thought they wouldn’t be caught.
Williams asked the judge to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole for both.
“If this crime doesn’t deserve a life sentence, what does?” he asked.
Victim impact statements
Three of Nicole’s family members took the stand to deliver victim impact statements.
Christina Montalvo took the stand first. She described the grieving process for her only sister as “never-ending.”
Steven Montalvo was called next. He stated that he stood in the court room with a sense of “terror and a loss for words.”
Edward Montalvo was last to take the stand. He stated that he and family members had previously pleaded with Nicole to leave Christopher.
He described the pain of listening to his mother cry after years of begging Nicole to leave Christopher, for her “only to be butchered and discarded like she never mattered.”
The death of Nicole Montalvo
Investigators say Montalvo was dismembered, burned and buried on their Saint Cloud property.
In April, Montalvo’s family said they believe the verdict brings accountability for her death and fulfilled a promise to her son, who was 9 when his mother was killed.
“We promised her we’d get justice for her and we’d raise Elijah in a safe healthy and happy environment,” Steven Montalvo said. “He’s been such an incredible kid these last 18 months, our parents have done an amazing job.”
Montalvo was last seen alive dropping off her son at the Rivera’s family property in St. Cloud.
Prosecutors said the men wanted Montalvo to disappear so they could get custody of her son.
One juror told WESH 2 News the most compelling evidence was the fact that Montalvo’s remains were found on the Riveras’ property.
“If you can find it on the property like that something is wrong,” the juror said.
One crime scene technician testified that she saw tire tracks in the yard and followed them back to a trailer that was covered in debris.
When they moved the debris out of the way they allegedly found what looked like human flesh.
“Immediately upon discovering flesh, the fleshy material, a foul odor was present. A very strong odor, and in addition to that, flies began coming to the area,” said Emily Seda, an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office forensics investigator.
Eventually investigators said they found many more samples and a detective took them to a private lab in Deerfield Beach, along with samples from Montalvo’s parents. Investigators said they had a match.
Soon after, the sheriff’s office said it heard from a man who lives down the street. That man told investigators he saw people digging with an excavator at a property around the corner.
“The excavator was being operated by one person and there were other people standing around the, whatever, it seemed to be a hole,” neighbor John Hall Jr. said.
Neither Christopher Otero-Rivera or Angel Rivera took the stand during the trial. The defense for Christopher Otero-Rivera essentially put the blame for Montalvo’s murder on Angel Rivera, saying all the evidence pointed to him.
During the trial, Otero-Rivera’s mother and Angel Rivera’s wife, Wanda Rivera, took the stand. She testified that she was on good terms with Montalvo, who often left her son with the family.
“Did you exchange text messages often?” Wanda Rivera was asked. “Would you say she even confided in you?”
“Yes,” Wanda Rivera said.
Wanda Rivera said she found out from the news that Montalvo’s dismembered remains were buried on her property and doesn’t know how they got there.
The brother of Christopher-Otero Rivera and son of Angel Rivera also testified.
He had been expected to be an important witness because early in the investigation, Nicholas Rivera told detectives he saw his brother and father standing around Nicole Montalvo in a pool of blood in the garage.
However, on the stand, he said he didn’t remember going home from work at that time.
Prosecutors eventually got him to testify that he did wake up late at night and saw his dad outside the day Montalvo disappeared.