July 7, 2001
by Aspen C. Emmett
As family and friends of Fred Martinez Jr. laid his body to rest Thursday afternoon, an 18-year-old Farmington man was booked into the San Juan County Detentions Facility in Aztec, N.M., in connection with Martinez’s brutal murder.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Montezuma County Sheriff Joey Chavez announced that Shaun Murphy, a former Cortez resident, had been taken into custody without incident late Wednesday evening in New Mexico. Few other details about the arrest were released.
"Mr. Murphy at one time resided in Montezuma County and has recently moved to Farmington,"
Chavez said. "At this time we feel that he acted alone."
Murphy waived extradition on Friday and was transported to Cortez by the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Friday afternoon.
According to county-court clerk Donna Sullivan, a bond has been set but the amount could not be released because all documents related to the case have been sealed.
Arraignment is expected to take place some time Monday. Charges reportedly will include second-degree murder.
Prior to the arrest in the Martinez case, Murphy had been held in Aztec on a probation violation in connection with a juvenile offense, according to San Juan County Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Calhoun.
Although Murphy had moved from Cortez, local school officials said his problematic behavior during his time in the area left an impression that wasn’t easily forgotten. Expelled from Cortez Middle School as a sixth-grader and eventually ousted from the high school and the alternative school, Southwest Open, Murphy had a reputation for being a troublemaker.
"We knew the name just because he had problems and he was young when we expelled him," said CMS Principal Byron Wiehe.
"I’m sure that he had a number of problems. Just for that short time, it got to the point that he was considered by state law as a habitually disruptive student. He was one of those kids you just don’t know about."
Three weeks ago, on June 16, Martinez left his home to go to a carnival at the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo but never returned. On June 21, two boys playing near the sewer ponds south of town discovered Martinez’s partially decomposed body.
Detectives speculated that he had died at that location nearly a week earlier and appeared to have suffered from some sort of blunt trauma to the head as well as exposure.
Chavez said that although the autopsy report has been completed, he was not willing to release specifics about the cause of death or toxicology results.
Detectives have also refrained from identifying a murder weapon; however, according to a police report, a bloody rock was found close to the body in addition to a checkbook bearing the name "Travis Miller." Police would not comment on whether the checkbook was believed to be relevant to the case.
The report also referred to a trail of blood descending the hill above where the body was found and described Martinez’s body as lying face-up in an easterly direction with his hands cradling his stomach.
Martinez reportedly attended a party after leaving the carnival, but police have not released information about who he was with or whether Murphy was among the group of party-goers.
"It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re still in a very critical part of it," Chavez said.
Thursday afternoon, a court-imposed order by presiding Montezuma County Court Judge Wendy Whicher, who is also the county-court judge in Dolores County, sealed all related documents, including Murphy’s arrest affidavit. The sheriff’s office also said a "gag order" prevented law-enforcement officers from further comment on the case.
The gag order was reportedly requested by the district attorney’s office. DA Joe Olt declined to comment on the case, citing the gag order and the danger of impeding the ongoing investigation.
Chavez noted that the high-profile homicide has attracted national media attention due to reports that Martinez was gay and might have been targeted because of his sexual orientation. Acquaintances said he plucked his eyebrows, curled his hair, wore make-up and talked about having a sex-change operation.
"I understand there’s a lot of questions being asked of us if this is a hate crime due to the possibility of him being homosexual or gay," Chavez said at the press conference. "At this time I can’t answer that. I can’t say 100 percent that it was and I can’t say 100 percent that it wasn’t. That’s still part of the investigation.
"At this point our focus is on solving this crime as a murder and bringing the person that committed this crime to justice."
Copyright © 2001 the Cortez Journal.
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