Self-proclaimed contract killer's crimes could span 17 states - WNEM TV 5

Self-proclaimed contract killer's crimes could span 17 states

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California authorities charged Martinez with nine murders this week. California authorities charged Martinez with nine murders this week.

The investigation into the man who allegedly confessed to more than 30 murders, and who is charged with a Lawrence County murder, may span several more states after California authorities charged Jose Martinez with nine murders.

Martinez is charged with the murder of Jose Ruiz in Lawrence County. Local authorities said they have identified 17 states that Martinez may have been located where there may be more potential victims.

He faces nine capital murder charges in California, and is charged with two murders in Florida. With the Ruiz case here, that is 12 alleged murders. A Lawrence County Sheriff's investigator said Martinez is believed to be a suspect in at least five other murders.

After being arrested for the Ruiz murder 10 months ago, Martinez allegedly told investigators he had been killing people in other states for more than 30 years – many of those as a contract killer, paid by drug cartels.

Lawrence County investigators continue to work with other jurisdictions, but the first trial would be here, because this is where the first charge against Martinez happened, and they said their main focus is the investigation into the Jose Ruiz killing.

"The death of Jose Ruiz is what spurred this whole situation, and we were able to identify other victims through this investigation," said Captain Tim McWhorter.

Martinez' lawyers are worried all the publicity surrounding their client's charges in other states will taint the jury pool in the Ruiz case. Attorneys Paula McCreless Bassham and Tommy Turner recently got the case after Martinez dumped his previous court-appointed attorneys. They said they will likely make a motion to change the trial venue to a location outside the area.

Because of the nature of the alleged killings, Jose Martinez is being held in protective custody at the Lawrence County Jail.

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