While in Kissimmee Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he is re-assigning the murder case of Nicole Montalvo, the St. Cloud mother brutally murdered in October, to Fifth District State Attorney Brad King.
He noted the rift it has caused between Osceola County Sheriff Russell Gibson and 9th District State Attorney Amaris Ayala.
“Nicole Montalvo deserves justice … the Attorney General (Ashely Moody) has reviewed the case and expressed concern that it will not be successfully prosecuted, and the Montalvo family has been left wondering if justice will be served.”
DeSantis said Friday he did not seek involvement in the case, that “it’s been effectively thrust upon me.”
He noted after reviewing letters from Moody, Gibson and the facts of the case as presented by Ayala’s office, he determined justice would be best served by reassigning this case to King and the Fifth Judicial Circuit out of Lake County.
“While incredibly powerful circumstantial evidence exists in this case, no chargers have been filed,” the governor said.
“At the end of the day this is not about a particular sheriff or state attorney or governor, this is about Nicole and her memory,” DeSantis said. “She can cannot speak on her own behalf, so we as Floridians need to assure that justice is done on her behalf.”
At the heart of the dispute was that Montalvo’s estranged husband and father-in-law, Christopher Otero-Rivera and Angel Rivera, were jailed on charges of her murder, but could not be held any longer that 33 days on them since Ayala’s office did not formally file murder charges. They remain in jail on other charges — Angel Rivera was briefly out on bond but went back to jail after the state said he violated the terms of the bond by returning to his St. Cloud home and property, one of the sites that some of Montalvo’s remains were buried.
The sitting governor has used this playbook before. In 2017, when Ayala said she did not support capital punishment, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred her death penalty cases to King’s office, including the murder case against Everett Miller, found guilty of gunning down Kissimmee Police Department Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Baxter.