It’s the kind of thing that never happens in your nice, quiet neighborhood – until it happens.
Or so said some residents of Modesto’s Nob Hill Court, where two women and three children were found murdered in a home on Sunday.
So said residents of the upscale Del Rio Country Club area when Cameron Terhune killed his parents in 2010. And so said neighbors a rural area of Merced when a 16-year-old boy killed three family members and a woman who lived in their family home in 1998.
It’s what people say nearly every time something goes so horribly wrong with families, whether it be in the Valley or anywhere else in the nation.
Yet these tragic events keep happening, as evidenced by the list on The Bee’s front page Monday accompanying the story involving the murders Saturday and the arrest of 30-year-old suspect Martin Martinez early Sunday morning in San Jose. Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said authorities apprehended Martinez after he left a movie theater with his father in San Jose three days after police officials received confirmation from a neuropathologist that Crews’ 2-year-old son, Christopher, died from head trauma suffered while in Martinez’s care in October.
The five who died here Saturday afternoon included Martinez’s former girlfriend – Dr. Amanda Crews – his mother, his daughter and two other young girls, though charges in that case have not been filed.
Nothing about these cases ever makes sense – not to surviving family members, not to the neighbors, not to the police who investigate them. As many as nine of 15 homicides in Modesto this year can be attributed to domestic violence, Carroll said. Even those who provide shelter and aid to domestic violence victims struggle to understand why it happens.
“What explanation could be satisfactory?” said May Rico, interim executive director of the Women’s Haven Center in Modesto. “What we tell people is that if someone has made a threat to kill you or someone you love, to believe it, to take it seriously.”
That is why this case is perplexing. Carroll said Crews continued to be supportive of Martinez even though the investigation into Christopher’s death remained open. There were no calls for police service to either of the two residences they shared at different times – one on Pasadena Lane and the other on Nob Hill Court – for domestic violence.
In that respect, Crews didn’t necessarily fit the profile for most domestic violence victims, as detailed by Rico, who spoke only in general terms, not to the specifics of the Crews case. So often, women remain in potentially dangerous relationships because they rely on the abuser financially or emotionally. A physician who schooled other doctors, Crews’ earning power was without question greater than his as a courier who shuttled test results for the county’s Health Services Agency.
Crews did fit – almost – one of the profiles, that murders in domestic violence cases almost invariably happen within two years of when they separate.
“That is when (the abusers) feel their control slipping away and they raise the stakes to gain that control back,” Rico said.
But there’s a caveat in her case: According to Carroll, Martinez moved out because of an order from Child Protective Services to stay away from the other children in the family – including the 6-month-old baby he fathered with Crews – while the investigation into Christopher’s death continued. To this point in the investigation, it doesn’t appear Martinez left for any other reason.
There was no forced entry at the Nob Hill Court home, Carroll said. For Martinez to be at the home under any circumstances would have violated the protective order.
The Haven’s Rico said most often, someone – a relative, friend or confidante – usually is aware of the problems.
“In chronic domestic violence cases, somebody knew something, and that enables that person (the abuser),” she said. “They wait to see if (the victims) want them to call the police.” Again, the police received no calls for domestic violence regarding Crews and Martinez.
The buildup to what transpired inside the home Saturday afternoon didn’t spill out into the yard, sidewalk or pavement until authorities arrived to investigate. Neighbors a few houses away told me they rarely saw the residents come and go. Yet, two adults and three children (including a baby) were murdered.
Indeed, Nob Hill Court residents can’t believe something so heinous happened on their nice, quiet street.
Sadly, it’s the same thing folks said in Merced in 1998, Del Rio in 2010 and far too many others tragedies here and everywhere else.