As Modesto doctor, four others were found dead, suspect attended barbecue, testimony says

Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll press conference on Nob Hill homicides

Martin Martinez is prime suspect in Nob Hill homicides and death of boy in October.
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Martin Martinez is prime suspect in Nob Hill homicides and death of boy in October.

The latest: Judge issues ruling case of doctor, four others found dead in Modesto home

As police investigated the discovery of the bodies of two women and three children inside an east Modesto home, the man accused in their deaths was at a family barbecue in San Jose.

Martin Martinez of Modesto had shown up in San Jose unexpectedly, his aunt testified Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court. He was with his father, Jesus Martinez, at the home of his aunt, Rosalie Amezquita.

Martinez is accused of murder in the deaths of his girlfriend, Amanda 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. The women were stabbed to death, while the children were suffocated.

Amezquita testified during a preliminary hearing for Martinez. She said her brother, Jesus, appeared sad and deep in thought when she first saw him about 6 p.m. on July 18, 2015. The family was in the back yard when Amezquita arrived that day.

Anthony Amezquita, Martinez’s cousin, testified Wednesday that the defendant and his father arrived at his mother’s San Jose home about 4:30 p.m. They had arranged a family gathering, because his cousin was in town.

About an hour prior to that, Modesto police officers were called to do a security check at the home in the 2600 block of Nob Hill Court, a few blocks north of Floyd Avenue. When officers arrived, they found the five dead inside.

At the San Jose barbecue, Rosalie Amezquita said her brother at one point followed her into her house, telling her that they needed to talk.

“He was crying. He started crying right away,” Amezquita said. “He told me that Marty was going to commit suicide. I asked him why? He said he didn’t know.”

Eventually, she said, her brother told her that Martin Martinez did something that was going to send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Amezquita testified that she began crying after hearing what her brother had told her. “Of course, I didn’t want my nephew to commit suicide,” she said. The aunt’s testimony didn’t indicate what her nephew had done that he believed would send him to prison.

Martin Martinez (2)
Homicide suspect Martin Martinez. Modesto Police Department

As Rosalie Amezquita was crying with her brother, she saw Martin Martinez walk out of the house and approach her in the front yard. She testified that her nephew hugged her before leaving with his dad in a vehicle.

“He just told me that everything was going to be okay,” she said about her nephew.

Martinez was taken into custody later that night as he and his father walked out of a movie theater in San Jose.

At the time of the July 2015 slayings, police were investigating the death of 2-year-old Christopher Ripley, Crews’ son, and were getting close to arresting Martinez on suspicion of the toddler’s death. Martinez has since been ordered to stand trial on charges of murder and child abuse in Christopher’s Oct. 2, 2014, death. That case has been set aside for now, as the case in the 2015 killings moves forward.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty against Martinez in the five slayings. Testimony was expected to continue Thursday. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to move to trial.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.