A prosecutor on Tuesday informed the court that the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty against Martin Martinez, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Amanda Crews; her two daughters; his mother; and his niece last summer.
Martinez appeared briefly in court Tuesday morning with his appointed attorney, Chief Deputy Public Defender Sonny Sandhu. The attorney has entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of his client and denied the enhancements and special-circumstances allegations.
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. The trial in Christopher’s death has not been scheduled.
The five slayings occurred July 18 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.
Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury told Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova of the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty against Martinez during a brief hearing Tuesday morning.
Prosecutors have filed a court document listing what type of evidence they would present to a jury if Martinez is convicted of five counts of murder along with special-circumstances allegations that make the case eligible for the death penalty.
According to prosecutors, the evidence in these alleged factors in aggravation will include:
▪ Testimony of friends and relatives who discovered the victims’ bodies
▪ Photographs and videos of the victims in life
▪ Victim impact evidence, including testimony of family and close friends of the victims
▪ The defendant’s lack of remorse at the crime scene
▪ Evidence of the defendant’s statements regarding the victims
▪ Violence used in the homicides
▪ Crime scene details to show advance planning and lack of remorse
▪ All trial evidence regarding premeditation and deliberation, multiple homicides and lying in wait for the victims
The document filed Tuesday morning by Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees also indicates that prosecutors would present character evidence about the defendant that would include allegations of child abuse and domestic violence.
In the penalty phase of capital murder cases, the same jury that convicts a defendant has to decide whether to put the defendant to death. The case charging Martinez with the five slayings has not reached the preliminary hearing phase, in which the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for Martinez to stand trial.
For now, the cases of the five slayings and Christopher’s death will be prosecuted separately. They could be consolidated in the future.
Prosecutors believe Martinez killed Crews and his mother with a knife. The criminal complaint filed last week includes knife enhancements in the deaths of Crews and Romero. Those enhancements do not appear on the murder charges for the children. Prosecutors have declined to discuss the manner of death for the children found at the Nob Hill Court home.
Martinez since 2004 had worked as a stock/delivery clerk for the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. Crews had worked as a doctor in Stanislaus County Health Services Agency clinics, most recently in Modesto.
About 3:30 p.m. July 18, police officers conducting a security check at the Nob Hill Court home discovered the five bodies. They had been called by Crews’ friends, who grew concerned after she and her daughter did not meet with them as planned earlier that day.
Martinez was found in San Jose, where he has family. San Jose police arrested Martinez as he walked out of a movie theater with his father several hours after the slayings were discovered in Modesto.
Modesto police investigators were about two weeks away from arresting Martinez in Christopher’s death when the five other homicides occurred. Detectives had completed their investigation and were awaiting a report from a medical expert who reviewed Christopher’s death.
The boy 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.
Martinez, 31, remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. He is being held without bail. Judge Córdova scheduled the defendant to return to court March 21 for another pretrial hearing.