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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 6:19 am | Fair 44º


Jurors Hear Conflicting Explanations for Death of Marilyn Pharis

Attorneys give closing arguments in trial of Victor Ramirez Martinez, who is charged with murder for brutal 2015 attack on Santa Maria woman

Murder defendant and attorney in court. Click to view larger
Jurors in the murder trial of Victor Martinez, above with his attorney, Lori Pedego, began hearing closing arguments on Monday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A brutal attack that sent Marilyn Pharis to the hospital caused her death three years ago, a prosecutor told Santa Barbara County Superior Court jurors on Monday.

But they later heard a defense attorney blame “grossly improper” medical care for the Santa Maria woman's death in 2015.

Jurors and alternates began hearing closing arguments on Monday, and will hear more Tuesday before deliberating the fate of Victor Martinez, 32, for attacking Pharis.

An Air Force veteran who worked as a civilian satellite tracker at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Pharis was attacked in her home on the 900 block of North Dejoy Street on July 24, 2015.

Martinez was one of two men who randomly broken into the house where he assaulted Pharis with his fists and a hammer as DNA connected him to the crime.

Jurors must determine if Martinez’s actions added up to first- or second-degree murder and special circumstances whether the attack occurred during a robbery, burglary, sexual penetration with a foreign object and torture.

They also must decide an allegation that Martinez used a deadly weapon during the attack.

The prosecution contends the attack led to Pharis’s death while the defense blamed faulty medical care after she developed a blood clot that broke off and traveled to her lung. She died Aug. 1, 2015.

Prosecutor giving closing argument. Click to view larger
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen told the jury that murder defendant Victor Martinez ‘throughout this case does the blame game. It’s everyone’s fault except his that Marilyn Pharis died.’ (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

On the morning of the attack, Pharis was asleep on a mattress in her closet, which was darker than the main room.

“She woke up to the defendant, Victor Martinez, attacking her,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen told the jury. “She’s asleep in her room in her home when her worst nightmare happens. Marilyn Pharis was beaten almost beyond recognition. 

“She was brutally strangled, not once, or twice, but three separate times to the point where she couldn’t breathe, to the point where she lost consciousness, by the defendant, Victor Martinez, in her own home,” Bramsen said. “And she fought. She fought back. She fought to survive.”

Jurors again heard the victim's voice in 9-1-1 phone calls after the attack, telling a dispatcher the man tried to rape her and pulled her pajama pants down.

Assorted nurses and doctors who cared for Pharis testified during the trial about the trauma Pharis endured and what she told them about the attack.

The prosecution team maintained that Marian Regional Medical Center staff did “everything they possibly could to save Marilyn Pharis’s life.”

“The defendant throughout this case does the blame game,” Bramsen added. “It’s everyone’s fault except his that Marilyn Pharis died.”

Defense attorney Lori Pedego said the medical staff knew Pharis was at risk for developing a blood clot. 

“The substantial factor causing Marilyn Pharis’s death was not my client’s assault on July 24 but the grossly improper treatment she received from Marian Medical Center,” Pedego said. 

Pedego argued that Pharis first complained of pain in her leg on July 29, but that was untreated for approximately 16 hours or longer. 

The time until medical staff treated Pharis is important because it affected the size and instability of the blood clot that eventually broke off and traveled to her lungs, Pedego said.

She also argued the doctors and nurses who testified had personal interests, due to possible malpractice claims, to blame the injuries caused by Martinez for the woman’s death.

“This isn’t the blame game as the prosecutor puts it,” Pedego said. “This is the truth. This is what happened.” 

She urged jurors to pay close attend to Dr. Manuel Montez, the Santa Barbara County forensic pathologist with no ties to Marian Regional Medical Center, contending he referred to grossly improper conduct by hospital staff. 

“If the clot had been treated earlier, its size would not have grown and the chance for stabilization would have increased,” Pedego said. “Even if it did break free, the smaller size would not result in Ms. Paris’s death.”

At the end of the day Monday, Judge John McGregor instructed jurors to return at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A second man charged with the murder of Pharis took a plea deal after the trial started. Jose Villagomez, 23, will return to court July 19 when he expected to be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.

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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