On Wednesday, Lancaster County Judge Denis Reinaker declared that Carlos Montalvo-Rivera, a five-year-old man from Pennsylvania, will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of his wife, 30-year-old Olga Sanchez, and for setting their family home on fire with their three children inside.
Montalvo-Rivera had tried to fabricate a story of a home invasion, tying himself up to support it. Judge Reinaker told him that the jury did not believe his story and that is how it should be. In addition to the life sentence, Judge Reinaker also sentenced Montalvo-Rivera to pay a restitution of $116,975.28.
After deliberating for less than two hours following a three-week trial, a jury in April convicted Montalvo-Rivera of first-degree murder, arson, risking catastrophe, and three counts of attempted criminal homicide. This conviction came after his arrest in 2019 and more than a decade after the death of Sanchez in 2010.
On the night of December 6th, 2010, police and emergency medical personnel responded to a fire in the 500 block of Dauphin Street, where they found Sanchez dead inside the primary bedroom of the house. It was later determined that she had been asphyxiated and died from smoke inhalation, and that someone had deliberately set her on fire while she was still alive. Montalvo-Rivera was reported to have appeared outside the house shortly after the children were rescued, claiming that intruders had killed his wife and set fire to the house in retaliation for his wife’s brother cooperating with the DEA. Montalvo-Rivera also told police he had escaped by jumping out of a second-story window.
However, during the trial, evidence showed inconsistencies with Montalvo-Rivera’s story. Witnesses reported seeing Montalvo-Rivera outside the house without his hands bound, but moments later when he appeared at the front of the house his hands were tied, indicating that he had bound them himself after escaping. In addition, the window he said he had jumped out of was found to be closed after the fire, and a neighbor reported helping him open it so his story could match.
Further, Montalvo-Rivera had initially portrayed his marriage as happy, but later admitted to marital issues and having moved out for a period of time a month before the fire, and a family member testified to hearing him say he would “kill his wife like a dog” after an argument close to the time of her death. Medical experts also found no evidence of head or brain injuries in a CT scan or observations made by emergency responders, and he was found wearing sweatpants with a removed drawstring, which appeared to be the rope used to bind his hands. On top of that, Montalvo-Rivera had twice run into someone he believed was having an affair with his wife on the night of the murder and fire.
Following the trial, Judge Reinaker sentenced Montalvo-Rivera to life in prison, providing a sense of closure to those affected by this tragic event. Assistant District Attorney Christine Wilson said in the sentencing proceeding, “This was an absolutely brutal and heinous crime that involved multiple victims. It was a cold-blooded murder. Even though the defendant refuses to admit accountability for his actions, he’s been found guilty by a jury of his peers.”