NEW PORT RICHEY — Newspaper columnists once declared that a young Daniel Lee Martin was destined for stardom.
Now, the 55-year-old singer and reality TV host is dead — found Friday afternoon at his New Port Richey home with a single gunshot wound to the head in an apparent suicide, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said. Martin was awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing children in Florida and Tennessee.
He had made threats to harm himself and others before Pasco deputies arrived at the door of his secluded home at 8952 Pennant Court, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said. They came with warrants from Tennessee for his arrest on nine charges involving sex with children. When Martin failed to answer the door, a SWAT team broke in and found him dead.
Martin was arrested Jan. 27 in Pasco County on local charges of lewd and lascivious exhibition and prohibition of certain acts in connection with obscenity. Three hours after he was booked into jail, he was released on $1,500 bond.
According to an arrest report, a young girl told detectives that while she was staying with Martin over several nights in November, he fondled his genitals as he sat next to her on a couch showing her pornographic movies.
In September 2018, a grand jury in Williamson County, Tenn., indicted Martin on sexual assault charges involving three children who were under the age of 13, records show. Martin turned himself in to authorities there the following month and was due to stand trial in March, according to a report in the Tennessean.
Martin was accused of assaulting the children from May 2014 through January 2018. It was unclear Saturday whether the new warrants from Tennessee arise from these or other charges.
Born in St. Petersburg, Martin grew up in New Port Richey and attended Hudson High School, where he made a name for himself in baseball and graduated with honors in 1983.
Martin played minor league softball after high school and had a brief career as a professional golfer, but he soon showed a talent for scoring home runs in business. He launched a successful graphics design and advertising business off Massachusetts Avenue in New Port Richey and spent 12 years developing his own public relations firm.
Still, friends and family said Martin’s dream was to be a country music star like his father. The late Dan Martin was known in Tampa Bay as a highly respected attorney but as a guitar and bass player, he shared stages with Johnny Cash and the Everly Brothers. He taught his son to play guitar when the boy was 8, a young Martin once told the Tampa Bay Times.
Martin got his chance in 1996 when he was hired as marketing director for New Port Richey’s signature Chasco Fiesta music festival. Days before the show, organizers learned they had no opening act so Martin stepped up to the mic. He never looked back. He left his business ventures behind and moved to Nashville in 1997 to pursue a career in music.
A 1998 headline in the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times, read, “Local singer could shoot to stardom,” and the story lauded Martin for “a wide-open personality that fairly zings over the footlights.”
Martin launched ChinMusic Records in 2002 and produced his first album, All That I Am, in 2003. Months of touring across the country to perform for free in Walmart and Lowes stores helped him maintain a modest level of fame in the years that followed. He opened for Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Charlie Daniels, performed at the Country Music Awards Music Festival in 2004 and recorded four songs on his 2007 album On My Way To You that were written for him by Keith Urban.
Martin also starred in a number of reality television shows that followed his life as an outdoorsman and musician.
On the Sportsman Channel, Martin hosted Brotherhood Outdoors and Backstage and Backroads with Daniel Lee Martin, a mix of behind-the-scenes concert footage and Martin hunting, fishing and jamming with his celebrity friends. He also starred in the reality show Till Death Do Us Part on CarbonTV with then-wife Julie McQueen. McQueen filed for divorce after his arrests became public in 2018.
Neither McQueen nor other members of Martin’s family could be reached for comment Saturday.
To report child abuse in Florida, visit www.myflfamilies.com or call 1-800-962-2873.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.
Correction: Daniel Lee Martin once opened for Vince Gill. Gill’s last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. Also, Martin got his start in music during 1996 with New Port Richey’s Chasco Fiesta music festival. An earlier version had the incorrect date.