Self-proclaimed hitman pleads guilty to murder

Jose Manuel Martinez is accused of fatally shooting Jose Ruiz in March 2013.
Jose Manuel Martinez is accused of fatally shooting Jose Ruiz in March 2013.

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - A self-proclaimed hit man pleaded guilty to a murder in Lawrence County Thursday morning.

Jose Manuel Martinez is accused of fatally shooting Jose Ruiz in March 2013.

Martinez pleaded guilty Thursday morning in connection with the death of Ruiz.

In Martinez' full statement (PDF) to Lawrence County Sheriffs, he said his daughter's boyfriend, Jaime Romero, had a friend who said his business partner - Ruiz - owed him money and wanted to collect.

He said Romero got Martinez to help. Martinez wanted to learn more about the man dating his daughter, so when he and Ruiz were alone, they began talking. The motive was that Ruiz had insulted Martinez' daughter while talking with him. Ruiz had no idea his killer was the woman's father.

Investigators found a receipt at the crime scene that led them to Romero, who was originally charged with the murder. At first, he wouldn't give Martinez up, the District Attorney said, because he was more afraid of Martinez than prison.

"Here's a man facing capital murder charges who wouldn't own up," said DA Errek Jett. "It was only after another witness came forward and told what they knew. (Romero) was very worried. His concern was, 'You're going to get me killed. This is a dangerous person here.'"

Investigators put out a murder warrant on Martinez just two hours before Border Patrol detained him when he tried to cross over from Mexico in Yuma AZ. Authorities there spotted the warrant in the database.

While in custody, investigators said Martinez confessed to being a killer for hire for a Mexican gang and had committed dozens of murders in other states.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

He also faces 11 capital murder charges in Florida and California. If not for the timing of that warrant, the Ruiz murder and many potential others may never have gone to court.

"I would think that would all give some closure to those families in those states," said Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell. "That's a good thing, at least just knowing that he's been charged gives them some closure."

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