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Pregnant wife of missing Tampa man waits anxiously as police seek clues

TAMPA — It was Wednesday evening and a pregnant Kacee Martinez had a headache. Her husband gave her a kiss and left to pick up Chinese takeout and root beer, leaving his cell phone behind.

She expected him to be right back, and to rub her feet until she felt better.

But almost an hour later, Emilio J. Martinez-Rodriguez hadn't returned to his Wellswood home at 2125 Dallas Ave. W. Then his wife got a text from their next-door neighbor about a man in the alley.

When Martinez went outside, she found a Sweetbay grocery bag of guava pastries and Mug root beer, a favorite of hers, in the driveway. She didn't see her husband.

Something was wrong, she thought.

She drove to the China Moon restaurant to look for him and at 9 p.m. called police, about two hours after he left.

Martinez-Rodriguez, 34, was still missing Friday. Police are increasingly concerned about his safety and said he may have returned home but didn't make it into the house. His friends are searching for him.

Martinez-Rodriguez works as a supervisor at a trucking center and does not have a criminal record, police said.

Police were not yet calling it an abduction case. "If this turns out to be a true abduction case or kidnapping case, it would be highly, highly unusual," said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. Most missing cases involve children or older adults, McElroy said.

A neighbor, an attorney with a surveillance camera on his home, provided police with a video that shows someone walking toward the couple's house at 7:25 p.m., just a second before Martinez-Rodriguez's car is seen driving toward his home.

Martinez said the video shows a man walking away and then running to her house before there's a shot of her husband's car.

Martinez, 30, was crying on the couch Friday morning, waiting to hear any news about her husband. Her parents flew in from Texas to help. Her best friend sat next to her. Her husband's parents were to arrive late Friday from Puerto Rico.

"I just feel like I'm in a bad dream, and I just want to wake up and have him right next to me," Martinez said.

She fidgeted with a rosary wrapped around her wrist. It's the one that usually hangs over their bed and was blessed by the priest who married them in 2006 at Sacred Heart. Her brother, A.J. Urso, introduced them nine years ago.

She's 14 weeks pregnant with their first child, and said her husband cried when he heard the baby's heartbeat. She said this was the happiest time in their lives. He bought a Tampa Bay Buccaneers baby bib and couldn't stop telling everyone he knew.

"When you see him look at her, his eyes sparkle," said Yolanda Crumpton-Coad, Martinez's best friend.

Martinez wrapped herself in a Bucs blanket. It's her husband's favorite team.

It had been a normal week, she said. They finished Christmas shopping together Tuesday night, buying gifts for their godsons and their niece and coats for their dogs.

She has barely slept since he disappeared. Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers have stopped by to make sure she's okay. His friends are following clues and looking for him.

Fliers are posted around Grace Family Church in Lutz, where the couple attended service and weekly group meetings. Martinez said she last saw him wearing jeans and a red hooded sweatshirt. Beneath the sweatshirt he wore a white, long-sleeved shirt and a navy collared shirt that read Nextran Truck Center, where he works.

"He's such a loving, kind person," Martinez said. "I mean, he'd do anything for anyone. I just don't know."

More than 100 people gathered at a candlelight vigil Friday night outside the couple's home. Neighbors came to pray, along with members of Grace Family Church. Mike Moore, a pastor at the church, told the thick circle that the candles they raised were symbols of hope. He prayed that the shining light would take away any "darkness" that might be surrounding Martinez-Rodriguez and would lead him home. The crowd chanted softly: "Bring. Him. Home."

Martinez-Rodriguez was driving a 2007, four-door, gray Toyota Camry with tinted windows, police said. It has a Bucs license plate, tag number B2AKC, and there was damage to the car's fender and front passenger door. The car rides low to the ground and has chrome rims.

He is 6 feet tall with an olive complexion, short brown hair, brown eyes and a goatee.

He has tattoos of a cross on his lower back, a heart with tribal designs on the back of his left shoulder and Japanese characters on his right biceps.

Police asked anyone with information to call (813) 231-6130.

Times researcher Natalie Watson and staff writers Daniel Wallace and Sharon Tubbs contributed to this report.

Pregnant wife of missing Tampa man waits anxiously as police seek clues 12/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 11:39pm]
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