TAMPA — In a span of four years, Charles Andrew Martinez murdered three people. The victims included a man who was shot in the head and left in a Gibsonton roadside ditch and two women who were stabbed, beaten and set on fire inside a Brandon townhouse.
He called them his friends.
In a Tampa courtroom Friday, Martinez quietly admitted to all three killings. In exchange, prosecutors dropped their pursuit of a death sentence.
Martinez, 29, will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The plea deal, which occurred shortly before Martinez was set for trial, brought an abrupt end to a set of separate, long-running criminal cases whose common thread was a wildly violent, unstable defendant in trouble with the law again and again.
The cases began with the 2009 death of 21-year-old Victor Martinez, found shot twice in the head in a ditch off Powell Road in Gibsonton. No relation to Charles Martinez, who lived in the Brandon area, Victor Martinez had long been friends with him.
Prosecutors said Charles Martinez lured the victim to the remote area in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2009, by telling him they would be picking up a package. Charles Martinez shot his friend, dumped his body, then drove off in his car.
Martinez was a suspect, but authorities couldn't come up with enough evidence to make an arrest so it became a cold case. Charges finally were filed last year, long after Charles Martinez had been jailed in the slayings of Lindsay Green and Jennifer Kalb.
Greene was described in court records as Martinez' live-in girlfriend. He lived in the Brandon townhouse her parents owned. It was there on Oct. 10, 2013, that authorities were called to investigate after Greene was reported missing.
Inside, they found the remains of a fire that had been intentionally set. Greene and her friend Kalb lay dead. Both had been stabbed dozens of times. Both had fractures to the bones in their faces.
Sheriff's detectives immediately focused on Martinez, who had been seen with the women before their deaths. He turned himself in on an unrelated warrant before he was charged with the murders in 2014.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon paused at times as he read the description of the victims' injuries. The fatal wounds were so numerous, the prosecutor noted, that the medical examiner did not have room to list them all on the death certificates.
The court records say little of who the victims were in life.
Greene was 25, born in Sarasota on Easter Sunday 1988. She grew up in Riverview, attended Catholic school, and played soccer, volleyball, and basketball. She had a son named Philip.
Kalb was 23. She grew up east Hillsborough and attended Bloomingdale High School. She had many friends and a large family that included four brothers and an identical twin sister, Jessica.
"When you brutally murdered my sister, you took a part of me along with her," Jessica Kalb wrote in a statement, read in court. "There are memories and moments that I wish I could share with her. ... She will never get married or have a family like I do now because you took that chance away."
The court proceedings lasted five years, a delay that resulted in part from questions about the constitutionality of Florida's death penalty. There were also questions of Martinez's mental health. In 2017, he was declared incompetent to stand trial and spent a few months in a state hospital before returning to jail. In court Friday, he noted that he takes psychiatric medication.
Martinez, noticeably heavier than when he was arrested, spoke in a monotone during court, giving terse responses as a judge asked him a set of standard questions. He understood that he could not appeal his conviction. He understood that he would never be released from prison.
He offered a brief apology for "letting down" his friends."I'm not asking any of those families to forgive me for anything that took place," he said. "I do want them to know I am sorry."
But some relatives did speak of forgiveness. They also spoke of making Martinez face what he has done.
"I agreed that (life) was suitable for you rather than the death penalty," Kalb's mother, Jacqueline Strecker, wrote in a statement, "because I believe if you ever understand or feel the way I do, it will take the rest of your life to figure it out. ... I know she has forgiven you. She was a wonderful, beautiful, forgiving Christian girl, and wants me (to be), too, so I can just remember her and not you anymore. May God forgive you for what you have done."
Greene's mother, Jennifer Greene, expressed no wish for mercy.
"Charlie Martinez, there is no justice on this earth for you," she said. "And I hope you rot in hell."
Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.