A judge on Monday gave the defense more time to review evidence, declining the prosecution’s request to schedule a preliminary hearing for Martin Martinez, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Amanda Crews, along with her two daughters, his mother and his niece.
The five slayings occurred July 18, 2015, at Crews’ home on Nob Hill Court in east Modesto. In addition to Crews, 38, the victims were her daughters, 6-month-old Rachael and 6-year-old Elizabeth; Martinez’s mother, Anna Brown Romero, 57; and Martinez’s 5-year-old niece, Esmeralda Navarro. Martinez was Rachael’s father.
In a separate case, Martinez has already been ordered to stand trial on charges of murder and child abuse in the Oct. 2, 2014, death of Crews’ 2-year-old son, Christopher Ripley.
Martinez was arrested several hours after the five bodies were found in the home and has remained in custody since. Martinez has pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Martinez. The preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial.
Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury said it’s been three months since they finished giving the defense the evidence that will be used in a preliminary hearing. The prosecutor asked the judge to schedule the hearing in January, saying that would give Martinez’s attorneys plenty of time to review.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Sonny Sandhu asked for more time, telling the judge there are about 6,000 pages of evidence the prosecution provided, along with about 100 hours of video and audio recordings.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova agreed with the defense. He said he recognizes that the victims’ families might want to have this case proceed sooner rather than later, but that he doesn’t want to rush this case.
Córdova scheduled Martinez and the attorneys to return to court Dec. 2.
Mury told the judge a preliminary hearing could take about two weeks to complete. Deputy Public Defender Maureen Keller said she’s not sure about that estimate, telling the judge too much is being asked of them right now.
The trial in Christopher’s death has not been scheduled.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees told the judge that if the defense is not ready to schedule a preliminary hearing in the five slayings on Dec. 2, she will ask the court to schedule the trial in the toddler’s death.
Crews’ son suffered severe head injuries on Sept. 30, 2014, while alone with Martinez.
The toddler died at a Madera children’s hospital after two days on life support. A child abuse expert and pediatrician at the hospital testified that the boy’s brain had suffered severe swelling. Bleeding also was found just outside the brain.
Modesto police investigators were about two weeks away from arresting Martinez in Christopher’s death when the five other homicides occurred.