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Rigoberto Martinez gets multiple life sentences for Apollo Beach rapes

TAMPA — Rigoberto Martinez tearfully begged the judge to let him see freedom again. He said he was a human being.

But Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles had heard enough in trial this week. He'd watched two women, both Apollo Beach bartenders, detail every moment of the terror he masterminded the night of Aug. 16, 2008, which included seven rapes.

The judge's mind was made up:

"Unbelievable brutality," he said. "Unbelievable cruelty. Unimaginable terror …

"Mr. Martinez," the judge said, "your victims are human beings."

Nine life sentences, the judge gave him.

Two for kidnapping the women, duct-taping them and forcing them into a truck at the Docks restaurant in Apollo Beach, where he appeared with two other men and a gun.

One for what he did to the 24-year-old, on a dark dirt road.

Six for the things he did to the 31-year-old, on that road and later in a field where she imagined he would dump her body.

The women held hands. They smiled. They cried.

They exhaled.

When their day began, the trial was still under way.

Jurors watched a videotaped confession in which the suspect wept and whimpered.

"I'm sorry," Martinez sobbed.

"Listen," a detective told him, "you did do a bad thing, okay? I know you did. And you know you did. But we need to clear this whole thing up, okay?" Martinez, 23, detailed it all, in language the jury had already heard from the 31-year-old victim.

"What are you telling her, Rigoberto?" a detective asked in the video.

"Scratch me," he said. "Hold me. … Kiss me."

He recounted her screams.

"She was scared," he said.

The defense's closing arguments: Maybe Martinez was threatened to confess. Maybe the DNA sample, matching Martinez to a bite on the victim's neck, was contaminated. Maybe one of the rapes happened in Manatee County, not Hillsborough.

And remember, defense attorney Kay McGucken told jurors, that when a co-defendant the women labeled "the mean one" wanted to kill them, Martinez convinced him not to.

"Well, thank you Mr. Martinez," prosecutor Rita Peters responded with sarcasm. "Thank you for raping them … for taking their money … for burning their truck to a crisp."

She said he shouldn't get a pass for his "crocodile tears." In the end, the jurors agreed. "It didn't take us very long for us to come to a conclusion," said juror Dwayne Cline.

He said the randomness of the case made him think about his own safety, how at any moment, one can become a victim.

"We really felt their fear and pain," Cline said of the women.

The women have already watched co-defendant Jose Walle, "the mean one" now 16 years old, get sentenced to 65 years in prison for the Apollo Beach rapes and 27 years for one in St. Petersburg.

They await the trial of 23-year-old co-defendant Vicente Reyes-Carbajal, also accused of rape.

The women will testify again.

Before leaving the courtroom, one hugged the other and said, "two down, one to go."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Rigoberto Martinez gets multiple life sentences for Apollo Beach rapes 01/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 6:57am]
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