Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent time this week arguing whether Silvino Martinez-Perez should be charged with first-degree murder or manslaughter.
Martinez-Perez, 36, is suspected of killing his wife in April 2017 after a heated argument. He is being charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of abuse of a corpse and three counts of child abuse. The trial, which began Monday, is expected to last two weeks.
Prosecutor Sean Murray said Martinez-Perez murdered his wife, Crystal Martinez-Perez, 33, on April 16 after a weeklong fight that started when she told him she wanted a divorce. Martinez-Perez admitted to the killing, saying he strangled her for more than 50 seconds in a 911 call with dispatchers, Murray said.
“He admitted it,” Murray told the jury. “He told 911 that they had been fighting for a week and that he strangled her twice.”
Murray then played the 911 call, which was made at 12:01 a.m. April 17.
“I just killed my wife,” Martinez-Perez is heard telling a dispatcher. “... I grabbed her by the neck and suffocated her or whatever.”
After telling Martinez-Perez that she wanted a divorce, Crystal hid her text messages from him whenever he was around, Murray said. On April 16, while she was sleeping with her three kids, all younger than 10, Martinez-Perez went through her phone and discovered text messages to another man saying she was single and could do “whatever she wanted.”
Martinez-Perez woke up his wife to confront her about the text messages. The two had a long fight in the kitchen, which included two cigarette breaks, Murray said.
At some point during the fight, Crystal told Martinez-Perez her body wasn’t his anymore, which caused Martinez-Perez to strangle her, Murray said.
After her death, Murray said Martinez-Perez admitted to having sexual intercourse with his wife’s body and then put her clothes back on before he called police. He then wrote a note to his three children, telling them he was sorry and encouraged them to stay in school and get a good career. He then called law enforcement and waited for deputies to arrive.
Martinez-Perez’s public defender, Jonathan Jourdane, said Martinez-Perez’s actions immediately after the crime are consistent with an individual who acted hastily and under extreme emotional distress. He said the first-degree murder charge requires a “conscious objective to kill” and that Martinez-Perez should instead be charged with manslaughter.
Jourdane said Martinez-Perez was under intense emotional distress during the weeklong fight as a result of his wife’s decision to leave him, the discovery of his wife’s text messages with another man and his current financial situation.
“He was losing all the things that he cared for in this world,” Jourdane said. “He did this in a heat of passion.”
During the week leading up to the killing, Martinez-Perez was suicidal, Jourdane said. School administrators believed he was suicidal – Crystal received pamphlets from Axis Health System and Safe2Tell about suicide, he said.
Jourdane played an interview with investigators, where Martinez-Perez was asked if he intended to kill Crystal. He answered, “I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.”
The defense lawyer said before calling 911, Martinez-Perez wrote a note to his children. Once the authorities arrived, he cooperated fully with authorities, even offering incriminating information on himself, Jourdane said.
“These are all signs of a man who acted emotionally and on impulse,” he said.
An autopsy performed on Crystal showed no signs of violent injury, he said.
The trial is being overseen by 6th Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson.