Amanda Crews, her two daughters, her boyfriend’s mother and his niece were found dead inside her east Modesto home two years ago. Several hours after the discovery of the bodies, authorities arrested her boyfriend, Martin Martinez, in San Jose.
When Martinez was taken into custody, he had a $2 bill with Crews’ blood, according to prosecutors.
Martinez has been charged with five counts of murder. His preliminary hearing began in Stanislaus Superior Court Monday morning with testimony from Crews’ mother, Paulette Beidleman, and her stepfather, Ronald Beidleman. They testified about the $2 bills they used to hand out to family members as a tradition.
Paulette Beidleman handed out $2 bills to her three children when they were kids, including Crews. “When you see this $2 bill, you’ll think of your mama,” she would tell her children.
On Aug. 2, Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees told the judge that Crews kept her $2 bill inside her wallet, and Martinez was found in San Jose with a $2 bill with his girlfriend’s blood on it. The prosecution plans on introducing DNA evidence that presumably confirms the blood on the $2 bill came from Crews.
The bodies of the two women and three children were found July 18, 2015, in Crews’ two-story house on Nob Hill Court in Modesto. The victims were Crews, 38, 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.
Ronald Beidleman, Crews’ stepfather, testified that he gave $2 bills to his stepdaughter’s children, Elizabeth and Christopher. He had not had a chance to give a $2 bill to Rachel.
The grandparents remembered Elizabeth as a happy girl who loved being around other children.
“We would go outside. I was her buddy. We would play hide-and-go-seek,” Ronald Beidleman said about his granddaughter. “It came to an end when she was no longer here.”
During cross-examination, the Beidlemans said they had not seen the $2 bills since they gave them to Crews and her children.
Paulette Beidleman said she spoke to her daughter a day before the murders. In the phone call, she said Crews seemed happier than she had been before. She said her daughter had been increasingly unhappy with her situation and the death of her son, Christopher.
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 has been set aside, for now, as the case in the 2015 killings moves forward.
Testimony about the DNA analysis in the five slayings will have to wait until early next year. The preliminary hearing, which is expected to last a few weeks, will continue Jan. 22.
Judge Ricardo Córdova agreed to postpone the hearing, because the prosecution had handed the defense a large amount of evidence that could not be accessed from its digital format. The defense has sent the hard drives to an expert to extract the digital information.
The preliminary hearing will conclude Córdova determining whether there’s sufficient 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 all the charges he faces.