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Preliminary Hearing for Larry Milete is underway

Evidence will be presented and witnesses will testify in front of Judge Dwayne Morning over the course of up to three weeks in the Downtown San Diego courthouse during the hearing.
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Larry Millete during arraignment.

A preliminary hearing for Larry Milete, husband of Chula Vista mother Maya Milete, is underway in a downtown San Diego courtroom two years after she went missing. 

Evidence will be presented and witnesses will testify in front of Judge Dwayne Morning over the course of up to three weeks in the Downtown San Diego courthouse during the hearing. The preliminary hearing is not a trial, and there are no jurors. 

There are about 25 people who are expected to testify for the prosecution during the hearing.

Milete is accused of murdering 39-year-old Maya, who went missing on January 7, 2021, near her home in the 2400 block of Paseo Los Gatos, the same day she contacted a divorce attorney. According to Johnson, an appointment was made for Jan.12, 2021. 

Milete was arrested by a Chula Vista police SWAT team on October 19, 2021. 

“In homicide cases, there is often a triggering event. In this case, on January 7, 2021, May took that step. And, the last call recorded that May made was to a divorce attorney,” said District Attorney Summer Stephen during a news 2021 conference following Milette’s arrest.

Milete has denied any accusations of involvement in his wife’s disappearance. Prosecutors allege he killed his wife because she sought a divorce. He wrote in a declaration filed on Sept. 8 that he believed his wife left without her children voluntarily. 

The case was delayed last year after Milete’s defense attorney Bonita Martinez declared doubt regarding his competence to stand trial, but criminal proceedings were reinstated a few months later. 

The prosecution’s first witness was Desteny Johnson, an employee from Broaden Law, a Chula Vista-based law firm, who recieved the initial intake call for Maya Milete’s divorce inquiry.  Johnson had indicated Maya was not confident she could go to their law office without being followed by Milete.   

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said during a 2021 news conference that a neighbor's security camera recorded nine loud banging sounds on the night of her disappearance, just before 10 p.m. However, it could not be confirmed whether the noises on the video were gunshots.

The second witness was David Garber, a forensic specialist with the Chula Vista Police Department, in which the prosecution displayed images of the Milete home on Jan.23, 2021. The prosecution showed more than 30 images of the Milete home on the day the search warrant was served there.  

The prosecution had asked Garber if there were items that seemed to be missing from the home, and he respinded "no". 

The defense asked Garber several questions regarding a safe stored inside a closet of the residence and if any valuables such as money jewelry or documents were in the safe. Garber says he saw several guns, valuable coins, and digital storage devices within the safe, as well as some ammo. Aside from the coins, he did not find money inside the safe.

The defense asked if Garber removed documents from the home as evidence. He said he might have taken some documents as evidence, but he would have to refer back to his report to clarify and confirm what was taken. The defense also asked about the conditions of the home's interior, including damages along the doors and walls, which he said he could not recall. 

Martinez asked several questions about the search procedure and whether anyone was present at the time, and Garber confirmed Larry Millete and his parents were present during the search. The defense attorney also asked Garber's opinion on whether a crime took place based on his documentation of the crime scene. He clarified to Martinez that his job is not to determine if a crime happened, but to document the scene. 

Court is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9 a.m. Garber is expected to take the stand to resume his testimony.