LAKELAND — A 16-year-old junior at Kathleen High School has been missing since April 5, and the Polk County Sheriff's Office doesn't believe he is a runaway.
Marco Martinez "just vanished," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Tuesday. "Our greatest fear is that he has met a violent demise and he's a victim of homicide."
Marco was even-tempered, a good student and a good worker at Fred's Market. He wasn't in any trouble and had no known enemies.
Judd said Marco had used marijuana, but there is no evidence to indicate that was a factor in his disappearance.
There are several reasons the runaway angle doesn't fit, Judd said.
On the afternoon of April 5, a Monday, Marco was babysitting his 3-year-old niece, Analise, whom he adored.
The child was found alone outside the home about 4:30 p.m.
She was shaking and crying, but otherwise was okay.
"Marco never said, 'This is my niece,' " his father, Cirilo Martinez, said. "He said, 'This is my baby.' "
He left hundreds of dollars in a pair of pants in his bedroom. His room is a shrine to Jesus, Florida State football, baseball caps and sunglasses.
A key was left in the back door lock.
He never used his cell phone after disappearing.
He never contacted his family.
"I hope he's alive, and I think he's alive," said Cirilo Martinez, 37.
He works installing traffic lights, and his wife, Alma, also 37, works at Fred's Market.
They burn a candle for Marco every day on the kitchen table.
Their well-kept home is in a somewhat crowded working-class neighborhood in west Lakeland.
Victor Alejo, 19, a friend who worked with him at Fred's, said Marco is a good guy who likes to have fun at work.
"He worked really hard," Alejo said.
Marco is 5 feet 7, weighs 135 pounds, has black hair and brown eyes, and has two spider web tattoos — one on each hand.