Father-in-law sent text message posing as Nicole Montalvo to cover her death, prosecutors say

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — On Tuesday, opening statements and testimony began in the murder trial of Christopher Otero-Rivera and his father Angel Rivera.

The two men are accused of murdering and dismembering the body of Christopher’s estranged wife, Nicole Montalvo.

Montalvo went missing after dropping her son off at the family home in St. Cloud in October 2019.

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A few days later, her body was found buried on the property.

In January of last year, State Attorney Aramis Ayala said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the two with murder. After Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson voiced his concerns, Gov. Ron DeSantis stepped in and handed the case off to another state attorney, who eventually got both men indicted on second-degree murder charges.

On Tuesday, new details of this gruesome murder were revealed.

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Prosecutor Ryan Williams told jurors during his opening statement that Montalvo went to the five-acre Rivera family property in October 2019 and never left. Williams stated that the evidence will show the two men murdered Montalvo in order to get custody of the couple’s son, Elijah. He also told jurors they then cut her up and burned her remains, which investigators later found buried on the property.

During the defense’s opening statements on Tuesday, the son’s attorney pointed the finger at his father, stating that she didn’t think there was enough evidence to prove that Christopher Otero-Rivera had anything to do with the murder, and said any of the credible evidence all points to his father, Angel Rivera.

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“Everybody was afraid of Angel Rivera, that includes his wife Wanda and his two sons,” said defense attorney Kimberly LaSure.

Angela Rivera’s attorney decided not to address what was said or make any opening statements.

Prosecutors then began presenting evidence against Otero-Rivera and his father, Angel.

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Prosecutors told jurors that right away there were some suspicious circumstances surrounding Montalvo’s disappearance, including text messages from Nicole’s phone that friends and family said didn’t seem like they actually came from Nicole.

Montalvo’s boss testified that she didn’t show up to work, didn’t notify him and didn’t answer text messages the way she usually does.

“We called the St. Cloud police department to do a wellness check on her,” Broadway Pizza Bar owner Christopher Sutphen said.

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Nicole’s mother, Elaine Montalvo, said she didn’t get any response either, and the Nicole missed a school meeting for her son.

During the initial period Nicole went missing, Angel Rivera showed investigators a message from Nicole asking him to take care of Elijah for a few days while she figured some things out in her life.

Investigators believe it was a fake message Angel sent to himself trying cover up the crime. “I told them there was no way Nicole would have texted that,” Elaine Montalvo said. “Then I showed them the way she would text me.”

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On Tuesday, prosecutors focused on Montalvo’s disappearance and cell-phone records. They also said that they have two other parts of the case to present; evidence of her murder and mutilation, and motive.

On Wednesday, we are expecting Otero-Rivera’s brother to testify about what he saw on the property.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.