Last July, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department arrested three men in connection with the murder of 46-year-old Jose Evelio Martinez, who had been missing since last June. Prosecutors believe that Martinez, a truck driver for a local home improvement store, had been trying his hand at making a quick buck in California's thriving weed black market after his wife died.
Things didn't go so well for Martinez, and he reportedly found himself $16,000 in debt to 35-year-old Socorro Sierra, who police described as an experienced meth and weed dealer. Prosecutors believe that Sierra and two other men, Felix Fernando Carreon and Climmie Smith-Hill, kidnapped Martinez outside of a convenience store in late June and drove him to an isolated area in Sonoma County.
Smith-Hill testified that he saw Sierra and Martinez take a walk under a nearby bridge and heard a single gunshot after the men walked out of sight. Sierra returned alone, holding a shell casing, and reportedly seemed pleased about how events turned out, according to Smith-Hill. Prosecutors believe that Sierra returned to the scene of the crime alone, packed up the body in a plastic bag, and then buried the body six feet under an illegal cannabis grow.
Gallery — Confiscated Weed Goes to the Cops
After a brief investigation, Sonoma County police discovered the connection between the alleged murderer and his victim. Cops arrested Sierra on July 17, 2018, and discovered what they believed to be the murder weapon in his vehicle. Smith-Hill was arrested the next day, and Carreon was already in jail on drug charges. All three men were charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, and murder.
Carreon was sentenced to six years in state prison, and Smith-Hill was sentenced to one year plus three years of felony probation, but Sierra's trial did not begin until last week. On the first day of the trial, Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar said that Sierra “admitted he killed the victim and buried him at a grow site,” the Press-Democrat reports. “He treated him with great brutality and disrespect.” After confessing, Sierra reportedly led police to where Martinez was buried.
Sierra is not contesting the fact that he killed Martinez, but his attorneys are arguing that the murder was not premeditated. “You’re not going to get your money if you kill somebody,” said defense attorney Walter Rubenstein. “So at that moment, something else happened.”
The defense will continue their argument as the trial progresses this week.