Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 2:48 pm | Fair 72º


Final Witnesses Testify in Murder Trial for Death of Marilyn Pharis

Jurors in case against Victor Ramirez Martinez to hear instructions, closing arguments on Monday

Witness testifying at murder trial Click to view larger
Dr. Manny Montez, forensic pathologist, testifies during the trial of Victor Ramirez Martinez who has been charged with the death of Marilyn Pharis after a violent attack in her home three years ago.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A forensic pathologist says he did not see signs of faulty care after reviewing the 700-plus pages of Marilyn Pharis’s medical records and conducting an autopsy on the body of the Santa Maria woman.

As the second-to-last witness, Dr. Manny Montez, forensic pathologist for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, began testifying Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday in the Santa Maria Superior Court trial of Victor Ramirez Martinez, 32.

Martinez has been charged with the murder of Pharis, 64, after a brutal attack in her home on the 900 block of North Dejoy Street on July 24, 2015.

The woman, an Air Force veteran who worked as a civilian satellite tracker at Vandenberg Air Force Base, died eight days later due to a pulmonary embolism.

Martinez has been charged with murder along with several other allegations, including use of a hammer during the attack.

“In my opinion, I don’t see anything in the medical records that falls under neglect, malpractice or misadventure,” Montez said in response to a question from Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen.

After Bramsen recited a timeline of the victim’s care in her final days, the forensic pathologist said he did not find the treatment “grossly improper.”

“It follows a logical sequence of examination, diagnosis, re-examination, diagnosis until the ultrasound,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with how that unfolds.”

Martinez’s attorney, Lori Pedego, has focused on the medical care Pharis received as the reason she died, questioning whether delayed treatment can affect a patient’s outcome.

Murder defendant and attorney. Click to view larger
Defense attorney Lori Pedego and her client Victor Ramirez Martinez stand in Santa Barbara County Superior Court where he is on trial in connection with the brutal attack that led to the death of Marilyn Pharis three years ago in Santa Marial (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“The speed of diagnosing, treating any condition is important,” Montez said.

“Because when you delay treatment, you allow a blood clot to grow, correct?” Pedego asked. 

He agreed delayed treatment can allow a blood clot to grow and enhance the risk of death from it breaking apart.

After Montez, jurors heard from the lone defense witness, neuropsychologist Dr. Enrique Lopez, who administered multiple tests over several hours before determining the defendant had a mild neurodegenerative disorder.

The defense attorney asked if Martinez’s cognitive disorder might have led to his confusion during a 3 1/2 hour interview with police after his arrest.

“That could be a possibility,” Lopez said. 

“Would that help explain why someone gave an answer that wasn’t true during a three-and-half-hour interrogation?” Perego asked.

Lopez agreed it could be possible.

But Bramsen, who is leading the prosecution team with colleague Fabiana Fede, asked why Lopez did not mention in his 16-page report the defendant’s use of methamphetamine could have accounted for some test results leading to the diagnosis. 

The neuropsychologist agreed a history of using methamphetamine could be one cause.

At the end of the court day Wednesday, Judge John McGregor told jurors the evidence portion of the trial had ended, setting the stage for jury instructions and closing arguments to begin Monday.

Martinez’s co-defendant, Jose Villagomez, took a plea deal after the trial with dual juries selected to consider the evidence against the men.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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