Man pleads guilty in Los Altos murder case

SAN JOSE — A man who authorities say ambushed and fatally shot a man in the yard of a Los Altos home in May pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday in a surprising judicial resolution to the city’s first homicide in more than 25 years.

SAN JOSE – MAY 13: Edgar Lainez-Portillo appeared in court at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Lainez-Portillo is charged with murder in the shooting death of 48-year-old Union City resident Roberto Rivera in Los Altos on May 4. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group) 

Edgar Lainez-Portillo, 25, of Redwood City, faces 50 years to life in prison for the slaying of 48-year-old Union City resident Robert Rivera, whom investigators said Lainez-Portillo killed in an apparent fit of jealousy over Rivera’s friendship with his ex-girlfriend, The murder charge the defendant pleaded to includes an enhancement for use of a firearm.

Lainez-Portillo will be eligible for parole in 25 years under the state’s youth offender laws that offer parole consideration for people who committed crimes before the age of 26.

“We’re very satisfied with the resolution. It was pretty extraordinary for case to resolve as quickly as it did,” Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Bryan Slater said.

Slater credited the outcome to the investigation led by the Los Altos Police Department, and included police from Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, as well as investigators from the district attorney’s office.

“They tracked down all the leads to develop a solid and strong case,” he said.

An attorney with the public defender’s office, which represented Lainez-Portillo, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Lainez-Portillo’s plea Tuesday came three months to the day after the killing at a home on Highlands Circle, where on the morning of May 4, police officers found Rivera “slumped over on his knees, in the backyard, with apparent gunshot wounds to the back and head,” according to investigators.

Rivera was doing masonry work at the home when he was killed. Slater said there is no evidence that the defendant and Rivera had prior contact before the shooting.

“He was just at work, doing construction work in the back yard,” Slater said. “Evidence gathered suggests that he was ambushed and taken by surprise.”

Slater said Tuesday that the best theory for motive in the slaying “appears to be jealousy over a woman.” According to the investigation, Lainez-Portillo was fresh out of a relationship with a woman who had once dated Rivera. After the shooting, the woman told police that Lainez-Portillo had exhibited jealousy about one of her ex-boyfriends, but not necessarily Rivera, according to investigators.

In the wake of the shooting, investigators reviewed home security video and found that a camera had captured a suspect pulling up to the property on a blue motorcycle with gold rims, wearing a mostly black motorcycle outfit with a black full-face helmet. The motorcyclist could be seen entering a side yard and “pulling a handgun out of his jacket as he leaves the view of the camera,” police said.

A search of Rivera’s home turned up a previous domestic-violence police report involving the woman, which helped police find her and later link the case to Lainez-Portillo. What solidified suspicion of the defendant was another witness who said she talked to Lainez-Portillo at a party four days after the shooting, and he apparently admitted to the killing. That witness also helped link the images of the motorcycle and suspect’s clothing to the defendant.

Lainez-Portillo is next scheduled to appear in court Oct. 14.