A judge on Monday confirmed a preliminary hearing will start Sept. 14 for a Modesto man charged with murder in a toddler’s death and suspected in five other homicides. There’s still a chance, however, that next month’s hearing could be postponed.
Authorities say Martin Martinez, 30, is the lone suspect in the five deaths last month. But he has been charged only with murder and child abuse causing death in the Oct. 2 death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, Christopher Ripley.
Prosecutors have declined to say when they will file charges in the July 18 slayings of the other five people: Martinez’s girlfriend, Dr. Amanda Crews, 38; their daughter, 6-month-old Rachael; Crews’ daughter, 6-year-old Elizabeth; his mother, Anna Brown Romero, 57; and a 5-year-old girl believed to be Martinez’s niece.
The two women and three children were found dead inside a two-story house on Nob Hill Court in northeast Modesto.
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Martinez’s preliminary hearing, used to determine whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial, is estimated to last two to three days. The attorneys said Monday that their expert witnesses are expected to be available to testify in the preliminary hearing.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova confirmed the Sept. 14 hearing, but he also scheduled the attorneys to return Aug. 31 for a pretrial hearing to make sure two other murder cases won’t stall Martinez’s case.
Judge Córdova is scheduled to begin a second trial for Juan Manuel Tello, who is accused of murder in the death of Robert Ruvalcaba. The first trial that went on for more than month ended in June with a hung jury. Tello has refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, but the attorneys have said there’s still a chance they can agree to a plea deal and avoid the second trial.
Stephen Foley, Martinez’s attorney, represents one of three defendants accused of murder in the shooting deaths of 10-year-old Epifanio Ramirez Jr. and 29-year-old Jason Cyphers. The defendants’ trial has gone longer than expected and is scheduled to resume Aug. 25. The double-homicide trial is expected to conclude in mid-September, but those involved can’t be certain when the trial will end.
Martinez did not appear in court Monday, and he is not expected to be in court on Aug. 31. The judge has given the defendant permission to appear in court only when his presence is necessary.