Choking back tears, Nathan Martinez admitted to 3rd District Court Judge William A. Thorne that he killed his stepmother and half-sister and asked for a second chance.
"What happened over a year ago was a tragic incident that I'm very sorry for . . . the thing I wish most is that I could change places with the victims," Martinez said at hearing Wednesday morning.The now 19-year-old Bluffdale man pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder in the shooting deaths of his stepmother, Lauren Martinez and his 10-year-old half-sister, Alexis. Both were shot to death as they slept in their Bluffdale home on Oct. 30, 1994.
Minutes after entering his pleas, Thorne sentenced the teen to two concurrent life sentences in prison with the possibility of parole.
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors had agreed not to ask for the death penalty.
District Attorney Neal Gunnarson said he decided to accept the plea arrangement after speaking with Ben Martinez, the father of both Nathan and Alexis.
"Can you imagine the great angst of having your wife and daughter killed? But in spite of this, Ben Martinez has unconditional love for his son," Gunnarson said. "It was his request that we not kill another member of his family."
Gunnarson added that because of the defendant's young age and lack of criminal history, it would be difficult to persuade a jury to put the teen to death.
Thorne said he was swayed by Ben Martinez's request that his son be given an opportunity for parole some day. He told Nathan Martinez, "At some point there will be a chance for you to prove to the state that you're entitled to a second chance," the judge said.
Officers arrested Nathan Martinez in Nebraska three days after the shootings. Friends said Nathan Martinez had seen the movie "Natural Born Killers" several times and believe the movie may have influenced him. He had also told friends he wanted to "go down in a blaze of glory."
Gunnarson downplayed the role of the Oliver Stone movie in the slayings, saying Nathan Martinez talked about his unhappiness with his family situation long before the killings occured. But he added the movie's soundtrack may have had a minor influence over the troubled youth.
Nathan Martinez apologized for his actions but referred to his family and his stepmother and half-sister only as "the victims" and "the victims' family."
"I believe the punishment should fit the crime," Martinez said. "I also believe that everyone should get a second chance."
"I want to improve myself mentally, physically and spiritually," he told the judge. Thorne accepted the plea agreement.
Despite the possibility of parole, Gunnarson insists Nathan Martinez will be behind bars for "a very long time."
Nathan Martinez's family declined comment on the plea arrangement.