BREAKING NEWS: Suspect in Modesto homicides charged with murder in October death of 2-year-old boy

Five bodies were found Saturday afternoon in an east Modesto home after police received a call for a security check.
Five bodies were found Saturday afternoon in an east Modesto home after police received a call for a security check. Modesto

Police say the man suspected in the weekend deaths of his former girlfriend, their infant daughter and three other family members in a Village I home is facing a murder charge in the October death of a 2-year-old boy, according to Modesto police.

Martin “Marty” Martinez, 30, was arrested early Sunday in San Jose after driving there from Modesto, according to authorities. He is being held without bail in a Santa Clara County jail.

Modesto police released the names of the two women and three girls who died over the weekend: Dr. Amanda Crews, 38, her daughters, 6-year-old Elizabeth and 6-month-old Rachael, Martinez’s mother, Anna Brown Romero, and 5-year-old niece, whose name was unavailable. Officers discovered the bodies Saturday afternoon in a Nob Hill Court home, just north of Floyd Avenue and Lincoln Oak Drive, after a request for a security check at the home.

Martinez is not being held in those deaths. Instead, he is being held on what is called a Ramey warrant in the Oct. 2 death of 2-year-old Christopher Ray Ripley. Christopher was Crews’ son from a former marriage.

Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said Martinez, Crews, Elizabeth and Christopher were living together in a Pasadena Lane home. He said Martinez was home alone with Christopher when the boy was injured in October. Carroll said that Martinez said he had been wrestling with the boy.

The chief said Christopher sustained head injuries and died two days later in a Madera hospital. The Ramey warrant was issued by a judge over the weekend and allows authorities to hold Martinez until Thursday unless prosecutors file charges.

Alisha Suarez, who lived next door to Martinez and Crews on Pasadena, said detectives came to home the evening the Christopher died. They said they were investigation a homicide and asked about her neighbors parenting and whether she'd ever seen them punish the children.

She said she hadn't heard anything and never saw police there that night.

Suarez said she didn't know a little boy lived there. She only saw the little girl and spoke to her once. She never spoke with Crews and the one time she said hi to Martin Martinez, he ignored her.

She saw crews leave the house in her car about 15 minutes after the ambulance left the day her baby died. She only saw Crews once after that -- he was with Martinez and he was crying.

One neighbor who didn't identify herself said the little Elizabeth Ripley went to school with her granddaughter at Standiford Elementary School.

Carroll said detectives have been investigating Christopher’s death for months and consulting with prosecutors. He said police received a report late last week from a medical expert who concluded the boy’s death was a homicide. Carroll said he is confident prosecutors will file charges by Thursday against Martinez in Christopher’s death.

Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager did not return a email seeking comment on the case.

Carroll said detectives sought the Ramey warrant over the weekend because they feared Martinez would flee. He said while detectives and prosecutors pursue the case against Martinez in Christopher’s death they also will be building a case against him in the weekend deaths. He said Martinez is the only suspect in those homicides.

Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, San Jose police found Martinez's red Lincoln Navigator near a relative's home, but learned Martinez had already left with a family member in another vehicle.

San Jose officers found the second vehicle, unoccupied, in the parking lot of the Westfield Oakridge shopping mall in South San Jose early Sunday, and around 1 a.m. they arrested Martinez as he walked back to the vehicle. Carroll said Monday that Martinez was accompanied by his father and was leaving a movie theater.

Martinez’s family could not be reached for comment and an attorney believed to represent him did not return a call seeking comment. But private detective Gene Whisenand took pictures of the Nob Hill Court residence Monday. He said he had been hired by an attorney representing Martinez on another case and not the weekend homicides.

On Sunday, when police announced the arrest, they did not specify the charge against Martinez. Carroll said that was not an attempt to mislead anyone; investigators wanted to get Martinez into custody as quickly as possible.

Carroll said police believe the five people died Saturday, but investigators are not releasing any further details regarding what they believe happened.

Friends and family members described Crews as a talented, caring doctor. But court records depict a tumultuous history with partners. A divorce proceeding with former husband Tim Ripley includes allegations of drug use against him; Ripley in turn is alleged to have told Elizabeth Ripley that Martinez was responsible for Christopher Ripley’s death.

Bee staff writers Erin Tracy and Rosalio Ahumada, Bee Senior Research Specialist Karen Aiello and the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.

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