Jealousy led to manslaughter

Jealousy over his partner’s use of a cell phone led to a push and ended up with a woman dead and a man in prison for 12 years.

Armando Luis Martinez-Hall, 52, was sentenced last Friday after Justice Priya Levers heard details of the incident that led to the death of Silvia Johana Martinez-Allen, 26.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn told the court that the defendant had pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter. She also explained the basis of the plea and why it was accepted.

Other information was provided by Defence Attorney John Furniss.

Martinez, a Nicaraguan national, had been doing construction work in Cayman for seven years. He was a widower.

In 2005, he made a trip to Nicaragua and brought Ms Allen back with him, having arranged work for her. She had first worked in a bar and then for a janitorial service.

They lived together as partners sharing one bedroom in an apartment with eight residents.

On Friday night, 11 August, they left their home together to celebrate the birth of a son to a mutual friend. Spirits were good and alcohol was present. Martinez drank seven beers and Ms Allen drank three mixed drinks. Around 2am they left the gathering and purchased food. Nobody saw them after 2.20am.

One relevant incident had occurred during the evening, Mrs. Gunn said. Ms Allen received a phone call and, before answering, she actually showed the phone to Martinez.

At 3.20am there was a disturbance in the home. Martinez knocked on a housemate’s door and said he thought Ms Allen was dead and he had killed her. He was reluctant to let anyone into the room.

Police were called and they found Ms Allen in the room. A large amount of blood in the room was due to a number of stab wounds. Ms Allen was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy report described one upward stab wound in the chest area that did not damage any vital organs and a superficial stab on an arm. The fatal blow was a downward puncture wound that punctured the heart and heart sac. This caused the large blood loss and the pathologist estimated that Ms Allen would have died in less than two minutes.

Police at the scene had found a knife on her stomach, with her hand on the handle. There was a bottle of medication on her other side. The blood on the knife was already dry when it was placed on her stomach.

Martinez was interviewed and told police there had been an argument that night and Ms Allen had armed herself with a knife and inflicted her own injuries, as she was apparently suicidal.

There were no witnesses to the incident. By his plea and later statement, Martinez confirmed that Ms Allen did not inflict her wounds.

He told police that the evening had gone well, but they both had consumed alcohol. He had asked her to prepare the food they had purchased.

Instead, he found her on the bed, apparently involved with the mobile phone. A check later showed there were no incoming or outgoing calls at that time. Mrs. Gunn said the significance of this was the defendant’s jealous nature, in particular regarding Ms Allen speaking on the phone. The issue was central to his mind and behaviour.

He asked her who she was speaking to and why nothing had been done with the food. She did not respond except to throw the phone on the floor.

He then pushed her. It was not meant to be a hard push, but it caused her lip to bleed. He went to get a paper towel for her and when he came back she had a knife.

She told him, ‘You bad man, you bust my mouth. Come and touch me now.’

There was a struggle and he took the knife away from her, held it up and then swung down at her. The knife struck her in a downward motion and this seemed to be the fatal blow. Aghast at what had happened, he withdrew the knife. She grabbed onto him and it seems there was another blow as they fell to the floor.

He again took out the knife. He could not get any response from her. The alarm was raised at 3.20am. Mrs. Gunn said it was not known when the staging occurred.

She mentioned two cases of manslaughter from several years back that had a domestic background. In each case, the starting point for sentence was 15 years.

In this case, Mrs. Gunn said, there was no evidence of Ms Allen being unfaithful.

In mitigation, Mr. Furniss referred to the defendant’s previous good character. The incident started with the phone and then escalated, but it was not Martinez who first took up the knife, he pointed out.

Once he is deported after finishing his sentence, Martinez will have to face Ms Allen’s family in Nicaragua.

Martinez had been sending part of his earning to Nicaragua to help his children and his elderly parents. Now he was concerned about what would happen to them.

Mr. Furniss cited two previous cases of manslaughter in which the sentences were 18 months and five years, but he agreed that domestic cases were not prevalent in Cayman.

Justice Levers adopted 15 years as her starting point and gave Martinez three years credit for his guilty plea and previous clean record.

She said Ms Allen had apparently died without defending herself. Martinez had made matters worse when he tried to say she had killed herself.

The judge recommended deportation after the sentence is completed.

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