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Local man blamed in killing in California

Published Oct. 8, 2005

A routine traffic investigation led to the arrest of a Pasco County man wanted for a gruesome murder eight years ago in California.

Charles Walter Martin, 46, of Hudson was the passenger in a car that left the scene of an accident Thursday near Waterfall Drive in Spring Hill, authorities said.

A Hernando County sheriff's deputy tracked down the car and ran a routine check on Martin.

It turned out he is accused of a 1986 murder in which a San Francisco-area drug dealer was stabbed to death and left floating in the Sacramento River wrapped in a plastic bag.

Martin was taken Thursday night to the Hernando County Jail, where he was being held without bail Friday.

"Well, great! That was a good bunch of work" by Hernando deputies, said Lt. Gabriele Bender in the homicide division of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

"It's nice to clear an old case," she said.

Martin, now a construction worker, has lived most recently at 16916 Bachmann Drive in Hudson, according to jail records. He had gone by the aliases of John, Big John and, in California, Charles Keefer, according to authorities in that state. He has an eagle tattooed on one forearm. He is 6 foot 3 and weighs 270 pounds. He was born in Ohio.

He is accused of killing 63-year-old ex-convict Charles George Stapleton in December 1986.

The man had been stabbed five times in the back and his throat had been cut, detectives there said. His wallet and 1977 Cadillac were stolen. He may also have been robbed of a large amount of cash and some drugs.

His body was found by a family fishing in the river.

Martin, then living in California, was identified as a suspect within a week. He was considered armed and dangerous. Bulletins were sent out for him and the dead man's car. "At no time should a private citizen attempt an arrest of Martin without police assistance," one bulletin said.

The arrest was a surprise for those who knew him.

"Heck of a nice guy," Robert Ricketson, an acquaintance who heard about the arrest from neighbors in Hudson.

Martin had lived in Florida "a few years, I guess," said Ricketson. Martin was self-employed and did drywall work. He had a mellow personality, Ricketson said, and had no family in Hudson.

"Geez, the guy would give you the shirt off his back," the friend said. "He was just like a teddy bear. Just really, really nice."

Martin never mentioned having had trouble in California. "I guess you wouldn't," Ricketson said.

_ Information from the Sacramento Bee was used in this report.