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Gang Member Pleads Guilty, Faces Life in Prison for Murder of Estranged Wife

A 34-year-old Santa Maria man and known gang member will receive 75 years to life in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to murdering his estranged wife in 2011, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Isaac Martinez agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder with the use of a gun, causing death, and admitted the special allegation that he had a prior strike conviction for vehicular manslaughter in 2000, District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a news release.

Dudley said Martinez will receive 75 years to life in state prison, and will be 107 years old before he is even eligible to attend a parole hearing. His sentencing is scheduled for March 25.

The charges stem from an incident that began July 31, 2011, when Martinez threatened to kill his 35-year-old estranged wife, Maria Estrada Martinez, and his 14-year-old son. He claimed he would kill her on Aug. 5, Dudley said.

On that date at 5:20 p.m., Martinez followed his wife to a convenience store, wearing a long-sleeve shirt with the name of his gang prominently displayed by the large tattoo across his neck. He waited outside, behind his wife’s car.

When she came out, Martinez attacked her in broad daylight with a .32-caliber handgun, struck her with it on the back of the head, and then shot her twice at close range on the left side of her chest.

“Witnesses described the shooter calmly turning and walking across the street to where his car was parked and driving away, but no witnesses were willing to identify him,” Dudley said.

Martinez fled to a relative’s home and called his mom for help. She then called his father, who drove to Santa Maria from his Arizona home to pick up Martinez and head back.

The Santa Maria Police Department and Gang Suppression Team detectives were able to locate the vehicle, and it was stopped Aug. 6, 2011, by the U.S. Marshals Office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Yuma Police Department.

Martinez was arrested on an outstanding felony parole warrant and later was transported to the Santa Barbara County Jail to face murder charges. Investigators confirmed the gun was the one that shot and killed Maria Martinez.

Dudley commended all law enforcement officers for their good work.

“This despicable act of callous cruelty has destroyed many people’s lives, and it is the most painful kind of reminder that anyone in the community who may be in an abusive relationship call the police to report any physical violence, because no one has the right to physically harm another human being,” Dudley wrote in the release. “Today, my thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends. Although nothing will bring Maria back, (Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann) Bramsen has told me that Martinez’s guilty plea has allowed them some sense of closure.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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