Martin Martinez was arraigned in court Monday morning and was ordered to stand trial in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, Christopher Ripley.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Sonny Sandhu entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of Martinez, who is charged with murder and child abuse in Christopher’s death.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova ordered the defendant to return to court Jan. 4 to schedule his trial. Martinez, 31, remains in custody at the county jail.
Sandhu has been appointed to represent Martinez. The defendant could not afford to retain Stephen Foley for the trial. Foley was Martinez’s attorney during a five-day preliminary hearing in September.
Foley was hired by the toddler’s mother, Amanda Crews, to represent Martinez as authorities investigated the Oct. 2, 2014, death of Christopher. Foley represented Martinez from the onset of the Modesto police investigation into the boy’s suspicious death, which went on for several months.
In the preliminary hearing, Modesto police Detective Phil Owen testified that Crews was cooperative with the investigation, but she appeared to be overlooking the facts that pointed to Martinez as the person responsible for her son’s death. He said the mother was reluctant to believe Martinez hurt Christopher.
On July 18, Crews, 38, was found dead at her home on Nob Hill Court in east Modesto. Also found dead that day at the two-story house were her daughters, 6-month-old Rachael and 6-year-old Elizabeth; Martinez’s mother, Anna Brown Romero, 57; and a 5-year-old girl believed to be Martinez’s niece. Rachael was Martinez’s daughter.
While authorities have said Martinez is the suspect in the five deaths, prosecutors have not said when they will file charges against him. Martinez has been formally charged only in Christopher’s death.
Christopher suffered severe head injuries on Sept. 30, 2014, while he was alone with Martinez. The boy’s mother had left the home to pick up one of her daughters and had asked Martinez to change the boy’s soiled diaper.
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.