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Judge refuses to remove death sentence of man who killed 2 girlfriends

November 24, 2009 |  1:35 pm

A judge refused today to remove the death sentence for a man who was convicted of killing his girlfriend, then killing another girlfriend for refusing to help him cover up the first murder.

Santiago Martinez Jr., 28, was convicted last year of stabbing companion Myra Orozco, 24, to death in 2003. The alleged gang member was convicted in 2005 of murdering another girlfriend, Christina Wilkerson, 28, less than two weeks before the first killing.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani emphatically denied reducing Martinez’s sentence to life in prison without parole, calling him “coldblooded.”

“The defendant was and is acting as a savage beast,” she said in court. “He is the face of evil.”

Martinez, sporting black thick-rimmed eyeglasses and a cleanly shaved head, stared straight ahead as the judge announced her decision. On his way out of the courtroom, he turned to those in attendance – none of whom appeared to be there for him – and sighed as he was led out.

“The word ‘predator’ is overused in these settings, but this guy really fits the bill,” said Deputy L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steven Schreiner.

Martinez allegedly stabbed Wilkerson multiple times in the face and neck before shooting her, a crime motivated by jealousy, authorities said. Less than two weeks later, he attempted to convince another girlfriend, Orozco, to help him get rid of the first girlfriend’s body.

When she refused, he allegedly stabbed the woman repeatedly before running her over with his car. A probation report reviewed by the judge Tuesday listed Martinez, of Long Beach, as a self-admitted crack cocaine user since the age of 11.

The defense, looking to avoid a death sentence, argued that Martinez is mentally retarded and suffered damage from a mother who drank alcohol while he was in the womb. The judge dismissed the claims, calling Martinez “cunning” and able. She described Martinez as violent since a young age, pointing to an alleged attempted armed robbery at the age of 11 and years of gang activity.

The jury in the second murder case deadlocked during sentencing, with one juror holding out against the death penalty, prompting prosecutors to redo the penalty phase. A second jury came back quickly with a death sentence. Martinez is set to be executed at San Quentin State Prison.

-- Robert Faturechi