A judge in Florida sentenced a man and his father to life in prison on Wednesday for brutally murdering and dismembering the younger man’s estranged wife amid a custody battle in 2019.
Jurors in April found Christopher Otero-Rivera and his father, Angel Luis Rivera, guilty of second-degree murder, abuse of a body and evidence tampering in the killing of Nicole Montalvo.
Montalvo, 35, disappeared on October 21, 2019, after dropping the couple’s 8-year-old son off at the Rivera home in St Cloud, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Investigators later found some of Montalvo’s remains at the home.
Christopher Otero-Rivera (pictured in orange, right) and his father, Angel Luis Rivera (left) , on Wednesday were sentenced in Florida to life in prison, plus 20 years each, for the murder of Nicole Montalvo
Otero-Rivera (left) and his father (right) were convicted in April of second-degree murder, abuse of a body and evidence tampering
Montalvo, 35, disappeared on October 21, 2019, after dropping the couple’s 8-year-old son off at the Rivera home in St Cloud, Florida
‘I cannot ignore the brutality of your efforts to cover up that crime and the pain that it brought to the family as they desperately searched,’ Judge Keith Carsten told the defendants on Wednesday, as reported by Orlando Sentinel.
The defense asked for a more lenient sentence of 23 years to life, but prosecutor Ryan Williams stressed argued for the harshest punishment possible.
‘If this crime doesn’t deserve a life sentence, what does?’ he asked.
Before the sentence was announced, Montalvo’s family delivered emotional victim impact statements, describing the devastating impact of her murder on her loved ones.
Christina Montalvo, Nicole’s sister, spoke first, telling the court her grieving process was ‘never-ending.’
‘When people ask me what happened to Nicole, I always said she passed away from an act of domestic violence,’ Christina said. ‘It physically pains me to say my sister was murdered by her estranged husband … and his father.’
Nicole’s twin brother, Edward Montalvo, said that he and his family were aware of the constant domestic abuse his sister was suffering and had previously begged her to leave Otero-Rivera, only for her ‘to be butchered and discarded like she never mattered.’
Family members of the victim are seen hugging after hearing the guilty verdicts in April
On Wednesday, members of Montalvo’s family told reporters that ‘justice was served’
Steven Montalvo, Nicole’s younger brother, said: ‘a little piece of us died that day with Nicole, and we feel it every single day,’
During the trial, prosecutors said Otero-Rivera and Rivera wanted Montalvo to ‘disappear’ so they could get custody of her son, Elijah.
In 2018, Otero-Rivera was accused of abducting and brutally beating his wife, according to court records. She filed for divorce while he was in jail, claiming years of abuse.
Prosecutors said the father and son hatched a plan to plant drugs on Montalvo to make her lose custody of the boy. And two people testified during the trial that Angel Rivera offered them money to kill his daughter-in-law.
When she disappeared, her father-in-law told investigators Montalvo sent a text asking him and his wife to take care of their grandson for a few days.
Deputies recovered Montalvo’s organs on two properties associated with the Rivera family in the St Cloud, Florida, area
Documents allege Rivera and his son used an excavator to bury Montalvo’s remains in two to five feet of dirt
Otero-Rivera (left) and Angel Rivera (right) are pictured in their mugshots following their arrests in 2019
Detectives suspected someone else sent the text because Montalvo had not told anyone she planned to go somewhere, according to court records.
Her body was later found burned, cut into pieces and buried on two of the Rivera’s properties, prosecutors said.
During the father and son’s murder trial, a crime scene technician described the moment she followed tire tracks to a trailer, which was found to contain human remains, reported WESH.
‘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.
DNA from the flesh was tested against DNA from Montalvo’s family and produced a match.
The defense attorneys had claimed the evidence was ‘circumstantial,’ and argued that had Montalvo been killed on Rivera’s property, more blood would have been found there.
The father and son each blamed the other for killing Montalvo, court records show.
On Wednesday, Judge Carsten sentenced Otero-Rivera and his father to life in prison for the murder counts. He also imposed additional terms of 15 and five years, respectively, for the abuse of a body and evidence tampering convictions.
In 2018, Montalvo had her husband arrested on kidnapping and domestic abuse charges. Otero-Rivera ultimately pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation
Speaking to reporters outside court, Edward Montalvo said that ‘justice was served,’ but he noted that the outcome of the case, however satisfactory to the family, will not bring his sister back.
‘Nicole is still gone,’ he said. ‘Her son has still lost his mother. So, I don’t have her.’
His brother Steven echoed his words, saying in part: “We understand that at the end of the day no matter the verdict, when we go home Nicole won’t be there …At the same time, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the verdict today, we finally feel like there’s some accountability, it may not be full justice because Nicole’s not with us but there is accountability for her death.’
The family said Nicole’s son is now being raised by his maternal grandparents.