A judge on Friday scheduled a preliminary hearing to start April 24 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 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. The trial in Christopher’s death has not been scheduled. That case will be set aside, for now, as the case in the 2015 killings moves forward.
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The preliminary hearing is expected to last a few weeks, the attorneys said in court. At its conclusion, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova will determine whether there’s enough evidence for Martinez to stand trial.
The defendant remains in custody at the county jail. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Martinez. He has pleaded not guilty to five counts of murder, as well as the charges 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.
Police investigators were about two weeks away from arresting Martinez in Christopher’s death when the five other homicides occurred. The defendant was arrested in San Jose, several hours after the five bodies were discovered in the home.
Prosecutors believe Martinez killed Crews and his mother with a knife. The criminal complaint in the case includes knife enhancements in the deaths of Crews and Romero. Those enhancements do not appear on the murder charges for the children. Authorities have not said how they died.