Bail was set at $500,000 for a Durango man suspected of strangling his wife earlier this week in the Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park, a couple miles west of Durango.
Silvino Martinez-Perez, 35, made his first court appearance Tuesday in 6th Judicial District Court, where he was advised of his rights and a possible charge of first-degree murder in the death of Crystal Martinez-Perez, 37. Formal filing of charges is scheduled for April 28.
Martinez-Perez, wearing an orange jail-issued jumpsuit, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion during the hourlong advisement and bond hearing. He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds when Judge Todd Norvell said Martinez-Perez will not be allowed to contact his three children, ages 5, 6 and 9, if released.
According to an arrest affidavit, Martinez-Perez called 911 at 12:01 a.m. Monday to say he choked his wife to death while his children were asleep in a bedroom of unit No. 7 at the mobile home park, 907 Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207).
La Plata County sheriff’s deputies arrived to find Martinez-Perez outside the home standing in the road. He was taken into custody without incident.
His wife was found on the living room floor, still warm but without a pulse. A deputy attempted CPR until medics arrived and took over. Crystal Martinez-Perez was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
In an interview with sheriff’s investigators, Martinez-Perez said he grabbed his wife from behind, put his left arm around her neck and began strangling her. They fell to the floor with her on top of him, and he continued strangling her for about 2 minutes, according to the arrest affidavit.
Martinez-Perez said he then pushed his wife off of him and continued strangling her from a side position. After he stopped, he had intercourse with her, believing she was dead.
Martinez-Perez told investigators he and his wife were experiencing relationship problems and she wanted a divorce. He said she was talking to another man on the phone before the incident, and she told Martinez-Perez she didn’t belong to him anymore.
La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith ruled the death a “homicide” after completing an autopsy Tuesday in Durango. She declined to release further information, saying the Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Judge sets bail at $500,000Martinez-Perez faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. District Attorney Christian Champagne declined to comment Tuesday when asked if he planned to seek the death penalty.
Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray asked that bail be set at $1 million, while Martinez-Perez’s public defense lawyer, Justin Bogan, asked for a $25,000 bail, saying Martinez-Perez scored extremely low on a risk-assessment test, which uses a defendant’s personal history and criminal background among other factors to determine likelihood that a person will commit new crimes and appear in court while on bail.
Martinez-Perez has lived in the Durango area for more than 20 years and has been employed with the same business for 15 years, Bogan said. He has immediate and extended family who live in the area, including parents, a sister and children, he said.
With the exception of two drunken driving offenses – one in 2002 and another in 2013 – he has no noteworthy criminal convictions.
Judge Norvell set bail at $500,000, saying the arrest affidavit contains “serious and concerning allegations” that raise questions about the community’s safety. If he’s able to make bail, he’ll be placed on GPS monitoring and can’t have contact with his children or the Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing, Bogan said Martinez-Perez speaks English and a dialect of Spanish that is different than what is usually spoken in Southwest Colorado. Nonetheless, a Spanish interpreter was used for Tuesday’s hearing.
The Sheriff’s Office said it was unknown Tuesday if Martinez-Perez is a legal resident of the United States. He does have a valid Colorado driver’s license, said spokesman Dan Bender.
Remembered as a loving motherTessa Nicole Thomas-Peterson, the victim’s aunt, said Crystal and Silvino had been a couple for several years but married within the past few years. They had a historically “rocky relationship,” she said.
“She had been unhappy for a very long time ... but they never let you know how bad it is,” Thomas-Peterson said. “She loved him and wanted it to work for the kids, but it was best for her to leave.”
The aunt said Crystal had told Silvino she planned to leave.
Kristen Evans-Tasevoli, who lives in the unit across from Martinez-Perez, said she didn’t hear any commotion Sunday night until the police arrived. Silvino was on the ground and turned himself in when deputies arrived, she said.
“She was having issues long before this took place,” Evans-Tasevoli said. “He was quiet. I never would have thought he would have done this, knowing him so long.”
Both Thomas-Peterson and Evans-Tasevoli remembered Crystal as a loving mother who was outgoing, friendly and hardworking. Friends said she grew up around Durango.
Crystal held several jobs through the years, including a long stint at Sonic, and loved to dance. She celebrated her 37th birthday on Saturday at the Wild Horse Saloon.
“She was my dancing partner,” Thomas-Peterson said. “She always lit up the room with her smile, but the last pictures I have of her, you can see the sadness in her face and eyes.
“We’re still trying to wrap our minds around it. We can’t believe she’s gone.”
A GoFundMe site has been set up for Crystal’s three children, which can be viewed by going to www.gofundme.com and searching: Crystal Hogue Martinez Babies Fund.