The Modesto man standing accused of the brutal murders of his girlfriend — a well-respected local doctor — his mother and three young children, has pled guilty to the charges against him to avoid the death penalty.
Martin Martinez, 35, was convicted on Tuesday for the murders of Dr. Amanda Crews, 38; Ana Brown-Romero, 57; Elizabeth Ripley, 6; Rachel Martinez, 6-months-old; and Esmerelda Navarro, 5. He was also convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the September 2014 death of 2-year-old Christopher Ripley.
Martinez pled guilty to the five murders and admitted the special circumstances allegations of multiple murders as well as lying in wait, as part of a resolution to the case his defense attorneys worked out with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
Upon entering the guilty plea, Martinez was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole, as well as an 11-year concurrent sentence for the death of Christopher Ripley.
The case was being prosecuted as a capital case making Martinez eligible for the death penalty. Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees and Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury prosecuted this case on behalf of the People.
During his plea, Martinez admitted that on July 18, 2015, he entered the home on Nob Hill Court in Modesto through the garage door. He first encountered Ana Brown-Romero in the laundry room and stabbed her to death. Martinez then moved throughout the house, encountering children Elizabeth and Esmerelda upstairs in the master bedroom. He suffocated Elizabeth to death first before doing the same to Esmeralda. Martinez then took Rachael Martinez from the kitchen to the crib in the downstairs bedroom, where he suffocated her. After those four murders, Martinez waited inside by the front door for Crews to return home and then stabbed her to death.
The grisly murder scene was found by Modesto police officers who had been asked to do a welfare check on the residents after Crews missed a meeting with friends.
Detectives responded to the scene and began investigating the multiple deaths as a homicide and quickly identified Martinez as a person of interest in the case. Martinez was the biological father of the 6-month old baby girl and had been residing at the Nob Hill residence up till two months prior to the incident, according to the Modesto Police Department. Martinez was arrested the following day in San Jose.
Martinez was under investigation for the death of 2-year-old Christopher Ripley in October 2014. At that time, detectives were contacted by Child Protective Services after Christopher was admitted into an out-of-area hospital with possible brain injuries, and died a couple of days later. Detectives working the case established Martinez lived in the home with Crews and Christopher, and was home alone with Christopher before he was rushed to the hospital. Christopher died of blunt force trauma to his head.
The Modesto Police Department hired a forensic specialist to examine the evidence in the death of Christopher. The forensic specialist gave a verbal report to detectives stating the cause of death was blunt force trauma and the death would be ruled a homicide. Martinez was not arrested at the time, because investigators were awaiting the final report.
Crews was a doctor with the Scenic Faculty Medical Group and the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency and routinely cared for patients in Turlock and Modesto.
The district attorney’s office said prosecutors held a lengthy meeting with the family members of the victims to discuss the possibility of settlement and to get their input before any agreement was reached with the defense. The relatives and friends will have an opportunity to make victim impact statements when Martinez returns to Stanislaus County Superior Court on March 12.