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Martín MENDOZA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: He went searching for his estranged wife
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: January 26, 1996
Date of arrest: Same day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: 1943
Victims profile: His stepchildren Sandra Resendez, 13, and Eric Resendez, 11, and his niece, Wemdy Cervantes, 11
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Santa Barbara County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on December 24, 1997
 
 
 
 
 
 

Martin, a short-tempered Nevada construction worker, killed two stepdaughters and a niece when he went searching for his estranged wife.

Rocio Cervantes had fled Carson City, Nevada for her brother's house after her husband Martin was arrested on a domestic battery charge for beating his stepdaughter.

Three weeks later, on January 26, 1996, Martin showed up at his brother-in-law's home in Landers, California, with blood on his mind.

As the family was getting the children ready for school, Martin knocked on the door and pulled out his gun. Angelica Cervantes, Rocio's sister managed to call 911 before Martin fired shots into the house and threatened to kill everyone.

He then grabbed Sandra, his 13-year-old stepdaughter whom he admitted having beaten previously in Carson City, and held the gun to her head.

By the time police arrived, he had three children in his car and Sandra in a headlock. When he saw the cops he shot Sandra at point-blank range killing her instantly, then turned and fired into the car full of children killing another stepdaughter, a niece and wounding his biological son before police fired back wounding him.

He then ran to the back of the house where he was tackled and disarmed by his brother-in-law.

On August 28, 1997, the 34-year-old construction worker was convicted of three counts of murder. As of September 29 a Sacramento jury recommended the death penalty which could be formally accepted by the judge on November 21.

 
 

Martin Mendoza - California Death Row

Sentenced to death on December 23, 1997 in Santa Barbara County for the Janaury 25, 1996 murders of his two stepchildren and niece. He was also convicted of the attempted murders of his brother-in-law and nephew and two sheriff’s deputies, but the jury deadlocked on a charge that he attempted to murder his son.

Prosecutors said Mendoza followed his wife and family—including his wife’s two children from a previous relationship and the couple’s three children—after they left the family home in Carson City, Nev. and went to her brother’s home in the San Bernardino County community of Landers. There, he confronted his and his brother-in-law’s families with a semi-automatic handgun during early morning hours as the children were preparing to go to school. Sheriff’s deputies were summoned and a standoff ensued, resulting in an exchange of gunfire before Mendoza was apprehended trying to flee the house.

When deputies entered, they found the victim’s stepdaughter, Sandra Resendes, dead in a pool of blood. Wendy Cervantes, the defendant’s niece, and Eric Resendes, his stepson, had been shot and died before emergency personnel arrived. Witnesses testified that Mendoza was upset that his wife left him, and that he blamed his 13-year-old stepdaughter.

Mendoza had previously been arrested for domestic battery after Sandra said he hit her several times with a belt to punish her for not helping him wash his car. The defendant’s wife, Rocio Cervantes, testified that she left Mendoza because Sandra said Mendoza had been molesting her.

Cncpunishment.com

 
 

Martin Mendoza

Some facts about the case:

THE MURDERS

People who knew Martin Mendoza knew a hard worker and dedicated family man. Even his brother never guessed what would happen after Mendoza ran into “a little problem” in his marriage.

On Jan. 25, 1996, Mendoza, 32, drove from Carson City, Nev., to his brother-in-law’s house in this San Bernardino County desert community in search of his wife and children, who had left a week earlier.

He found them getting ready to go to school, authorities said, and started shouting and shooting.

Deputies driving up to the front yard watched as he held Sandra in a headlock and shot her. They said he then opened fire on a car in the driveway, where three other children were waiting to go to school.

He already had taken a shot at his brother-in-law and missed, sheriff’s spokeswoman Toni Broten said. His wife had run into the house.

Mendoza allegedly fired at two patrol cars, hitting them but missing the deputies. One officer shot him in the shoulder. Mendoza ran into the back yard, where he was taken down and handcuffed.

When it was over, three children were dead: Sandra and Erik, his stepchildren and niece Wendy. The couple’s 7-year-old son escaped with a minor bullet wound, and an 8-year-old was unhurt.

“I never would have expected that from the guy,” said Mark Crook, Mendoza’s supervisor at Tedesco Construction in Reno where Mendoza was responsible for heavy equipment. He was so conscientious he was being considered for a promotion, said company owner Greg Tedesco.

“He was a very nice guy, always laughing and playing with the kids. But when his wife left, I think he was thinking too much and went a little crazy,” said Adrian Obeso, a brother-in-law in Carson City.

Investigators expected to hand the case over to prosecutors for Mendoza to be arraigned on murder charges said Broten.

Deputies planned to check Mendoza out of a hospital and take him to a detention center.

“His wound isn’t life threatening,” said Broten.

Also arrested in the murder investigation was Jose Soria Delgado, a nephew of Mendoza accused of driving him to the house. Authorities said he drove away when he saw trouble brewing.

Mendoza’s wife was identified by San Bernardino County authorities as Rocio Cervantes. Colleagues and neighbors in Carson City knew her as Maria Mendoza.

Martin Mendoza, also identified by the sheriff’s department as Martin Garcia-Mendoza, had received a 30-day suspended sentence for hitting Sandra with a belt Jan. 7 and pushing her down.

Carson City Justice of the Peace Robey Willis let Mendoza stay out of jail on condition he got counseling for his anger and alcohol use and stayed out of trouble for a year. The next day he told his bosses he was leaving town, according to colleagues.

UPDATE

Aug. 29, 1997 — Jurors convicted a Nevada man Thursday of the first-degree murders of his two stepchildren and a niece, and the attempted murders of two sheriff’s deputies and two relatives.

The jury deliberated about five hours over two days before finding Martin Mendoza guilty of the Jan. 25, 1996, murders of Sandra Resendez, 13, Eric Resendez, 11, and Wemdy Cervantes, 11.

The 34-year-old Carson City construction worker was also convicted of one count of assault with a deadly weapon.

The jury deadlocked 9-to-3 in favor of acquittal on a fifth charge of attempted murder involving the defendant’s 9-year-old son, Martin Mendoza Jr. Trial testimony was unclear as to whether the bullet that struck the boy was a ricochet or had been deliberately aimed at him.

Superior Court Judge James Edwards scheduled the penalty phase to begin Sept. 13. Jurors will decide whether Mendoza will be sentenced to death or life in prison without possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney David Whitney had predicted early verdicts in the case, saying, “I think it’s just such an overwhelming case.

“He executed children. Executed them,” the prosecutor told jurors in his closing argument.

Defense attorney Arthur Katz pleaded with jurors to return verdicts of voluntary manslaughter, or at most, second-degree murder. Lesser verdicts were warranted, he said, because the shootings were impulsive acts prompted by a quarrel, heat of passion, alcohol and overzealous response by deputies.

The defense claimed it was a violent end to a domestic dispute provoked by a deputy who arrived at the Landers home with lights and sirens on — even though a relative begged a 911 operator to have deputies approach quietly through a back route because of fears deputies would set off Mendoza.
Whitney said Mendoza was the only one to blame.

Five days before the shootings, Mendoza bought extra ammunition, duct tape and a knife and detailed his plans to his nephew — all indications that the killings were premeditated, the prosecutor said.

A week before the killings, Mendoza’s estranged wife, Rocio Cervantes, fled the couple’s Carson City home with the children to escape domestic violence, Whitney said.

Mendoza pleaded guilty three days before the shootings to misdemeanor domestic battery for beating 13-year-old Sandra, one of the children he later killed. The girl had accused her stepfather of sexually molesting her, but she later recanted the allegation.

In chilling testimony, Rocio Cervantes told jurors her then-husband terrorized her family at gunpoint. The couple have since divorced.

On the day of the killings, Mendoza arrived at the Landers home of relatives where Cervantes had fled and muttered at one point that he wasn’t to blame for what was about to happen, the woman testified.

Cervantes said she asked what he meant, and Mendoza replied, “Wait. You’ll find out soon what’s going to happen.”

A short time later, he was holding a gun to Sandra’s head.

“He told Sandra, `Look at your mother ... and remember how she is. If you hadn’t told your mother (about alleged sexual abuse) she would still be with me. And now you are both going to die,’ “ Cervantes testified.

“He was telling her not to cry because he was going to kill us anyway,” Cervantes said. “He wouldn’t let go of Sandra.”

Mendoza told Sandra to take a last look at her mother and blamed her for the couple’s split. Sandra was then shot dead. Then Eric and Cervantes’ niece, Wendy, were killed.

Sept. 18, 1997 — The parents of three children who were shot to death by a Nevada man last year described their anguish and heartache at the start of the penalty phase of his trial.

“I’ll never be able to forgive him,” Rocio Cervantes testified Tuesday against her estranged husband, Martin Mendoza. “They were my children.”

Domestic problems between Mendoza and Cervantes resulted in the Jan. 25, 1996, shooting in Landers. Cervantes said she had fled the couple’s Carson City home with the children to escape violence.

Mendoza, who could receive the death penalty, was convicted Aug. 28 of killing his stepchildren Sandra Resendez, 13, and Eric Resendez, 11, and his niece, Wemdy Cervantes, 11.

Three days before the shooting, Mendoza pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery for beating Sandra. The girl had accused her stepfather of sexually molesting her, but she later recanted the allegation.

On the day of the killings, Mendoza arrived at the Landers home of relatives where Cervantes had fled and muttered at one point that he was not to blame for what was about to happen, according to testimony.

“I feel that I was at fault for what happened to them because Martin came looking for me,” Cervantes said Tuesday. “I think the problems were with me, not with my children. I feel that I am never going to forgive myself.”

She told jurors that she still makes late-night visits to the crime scene.

Cervantes’ brother, Antonio Cervantes, who lost his youngest daughter, told jurors that his family has been ruined. He lost his job because his wife and sister were suicidal for six months after the shooting, he said.

Antonio Cervantes said he and his wife are now close to divorce.

“I have four children,” he said. “And after four of them, my daughter Wendy was the noblest of them all.”

The guilty verdicts guarantee that Mendoza will die in prison, said defense attorney Arthur Katz during his opening statement. The only lingering question is how he will die, he added.

“The hardest thing for me to do is to come back before you after you have rejected us,” he said.

SENTENCE

Dec. 24, 1997 — A Nevada man was sentenced to death for murdering three children after pursuing his wife to a California desert community.

Superior Court Judge James A. Edwards gave Martin Mendoza the penalty recommended by a jury in September.

According to testimony, Mendoza followed his wife to Landers, where she was staying with relatives. A week earlier, she had left Mendoza in Carson City, where he had just received a 30-day suspended sentence for hitting Sandra with a belt and pushing her down.

His wife, Rocio Cervantes, testified that before shooting Sandra he raged that the child had informed on him for sexually abusing her.

The nine-man, three-woman jury also convicted Mendoza of the attempted murders of two sheriff’s deputies and two relatives.