TAMPA — A neighbor worried about the 74-year-old man who lived alone in the house on Liberty Street. Eddie Quezada faithfully tended his garden but had ignored it for two days.
Tampa police went to check on Quezada Sunday night and found him lying in blood, a pair of dentures on the floor nearby. He was dead.
They say Sarah Kynay Martinez, 21, admitted to slashing him with a machete. Martinez didn’t say why, but investigators noted bloody footprints and a ransacked house and learned the man had previously lent the woman money.
Martinez was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder, armed burglary and attempted robbery with a deadly weapon. She lived at 2329 Liberty St., in the same block as Quezeda.
A neighbor who called police Sunday night said Quezada hadn’t been seen in a couple of days. Officers and Tampa Fire Rescue personnel arrived and found his body just inside the front door, clad in a shirt, shorts and socks, according to an arrest affidavit. He had deep, long cuts on his face, chest and back.
Near his body, investigators saw broken furniture and glass bottles and blood spattered on the walls. In one of the home’s bedrooms, investigators found a bloody machete with a 26-inch blade.
Other evidence suggested Quezada’s assailant searched his home after the attack, the report says. Bloody shoe prints led to both bedrooms, and blood was found inside a bedroom closet and on opened boxes, ripped envelopes and personal paperwork.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Quezada’s skull had been fractured by the force of the machete blows. He died from a brain contusion, sinus laceration and cardiac embolism, the report says.
Neighbors told police a local woman had visited Quezada and borrowed money from him that she still owed, and had asked him to help get her a job. His phone records showed a high number of incoming and outgoing calls to a number associated with Martinez, the report says. Martinez also worked at the same company with Quezada for a short period of time earlier this year.
A bloody fingerprint on the blade of the machete matched Martinez’s left middle finger, according to police.
Detectives who interviewed Martinez noted healing cuts on her hands. She told police Quezada attacked her and she defended herself by striking him with the machete. She said she remembered hitting him in the center of the face but then blacked out. She said she searched the house only for a change of clothes and claimed Quezada was alive when she left. She also said she entered Quezada’s car parked in the driveway but denied that she was searching for something.
Martinez was arrested Thursday and booked into the county jail early Friday. She was held without bail.
Police said the motive for the attack remained unclear.
Neighbors told police Quezada was a friendly, active man who moved slowly because of ailing knees. They said he kept a neat and clean home and tended his garden daily.
"Neighbors also described the victim as conscientious about who he allowed into his residence," the report says.
Records show Martinez has several previous arrests in Florida. Hillsborough court filings also chronicle a tumultuous relationship with her parents, who told authorities they were afraid of her because she would become violent when they refused to give her money. Records show her parents owe the Liberty Street home where she was living at the time of her arrest Thursday.
Martinez pleaded guilty in 2015 to dealing in stolen property and providing false information to a pawn broker, records show. The court withheld judgement and she was placed on probation.
She was arrested on misdemeanor domestic violence charges in July 2016 and June 2017 that were later dropped. Details on those cases were not immediately available Friday.
On Feb. 7 of this year, Martinez was arrested in Tampa and charged with domestic battery and battery on a law enforcement officer. The arrest report was not immediately available, but court records show the first charge was later dropped. She pleaded guilty to the second charge and sentenced to time served in the county jail.
On Feb. 8, the day after that arrest, Martinez’s parents Miguel and Juana Martinez each filed a petition for domestic violence protection in Hillsborough County, records show.
In the petitions, the parents claimed their daughter had become enraged the day before when they refused to give her a credit card. Miguel Martinez said his daughter pushed his wife and grabbed the phone out of her hand as the mother called police.
"I gave her the card to avoid more problems because she threatened that she was going to hit me," Miguel Martinez told a court translator, who wrote his account in the petition. "In the past, she has hit me on my face."
Juana Martinez wrote that she worried her daughter would get more violent and that her husband and other daughter are afraid of her.
"All of this over her drug use," Juana Martinez wrote.
Records show the court granted a temporary injunction and the case was dismissed Feb. 15 after a hearing.
A similar incident happened again in May, according to another domestic violence petition Juana Martinez filed in June.
Juana Martinez wrote that on May 25, her daughter started the day "like she does every day, asking me for money." The daughter "begged for $100."
"She became very violent, like always, she screamed at me, she pushed me," the mother wrote. "I could not control her."
Juana Martinez’s sister-in-law gave Sarah Martinez $100 and she calmed down, the petition says.
"The same thing happens every day," the mother wrote. The incident left bruising on the mother’s arm and foot, the petition says. Juana Martinez called police on June 7 and she was arrested.
In the June petition, Juana Martinez notes that she had previously sought protection from her daughter, "but while in court I requested to give her another chance and it was dismissed," she wrote.
A judge granted a temporary injunction on June 8 but the case was dismissed on June 20 when Juana Martinez voluntarily dropped the petition, records show.
Nine days later, Sarah Martinez was arrested in Homestead on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge that was later dropped, records show.
Her most recent arrest before Thursday’s charge came on July 2, when she was charged with trespassing in Miami-Dade County. That charge was also dropped.
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.