ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – An Española woman in her 70s was raped and murdered, allegedly, by her own son — a man, his family says, should’ve been in jail after repeated arrests and violating restraining orders. Now, the family wants justice and to know how the system failed.

“A woman who could always bring a smile to your face.” That’s how the family remembers Cora Martinez.

“She was the most kind, generous, giving lady that you could find,” said Dennis Salazar, a nephew of Cora and son-in-law of her twin sister. “Brought a lot of light to many people and brightened their day.”

However, when it came to her son, Erick Martinez, things were rocky. Martinez had a history of arrests over the past two decades with multiple felonies and DWI charges.

“Several run-ins with the law in the past, many of them was a violent nature,” said Salazar. “He would show up at her house, sleep out in the front yard and he would demand to come inside.”

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Last week, things escalated when Española police say Martinez beat his mother to death and sexually assaulted her at her home. Cora’s twin sister Olivia, who is blind, and her 5-year-old grandson — Martinez’s son who she legally adopted — were in the house at the time. Family members say the little boy witnessed everything.

“What I understand is he was relentless, he kept hitting her full force,” said Salazar. “She was screaming to please stop.”

Cora’s family says she died sometime in the night as her sister and grandson waited in fear for Martinez to finally leave the next day, as they did not have access to a cell phone. Eventually, other family members checked in, saw what happened and called 911.

Salazar says Martinez was continuously arrested and let back out on the streets, including taking off his ankle monitors, and Cora even had restraining orders against her son, often violated. They say the system failed her and more should have been done to keep him off the streets so this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“This was an absolute preventable death,” said Salazar. “It’s something that should not have happened because he should’ve stayed behind bars.”

Now, Cora’s family says it will be a long road forward as they grieve and heal. However, they have no plans to stop until there’s justice for their beloved grandmother.

“We all are going to do our part to ensure that he is put behind bars and he does not ever come out again,” said Salazar. “He pays for his crimes and we demand that full justice is served.”

Martinez has at least 20 arrests on his record, including breaking and entering into his family’s home, holding family members against their will, stealing their vehicles, violating restraining orders and damaging their property. He was most recently released from jail on June 1, after he allegedly violated a restraining order. He was supposed to go to court, in that case, the morning of the murder.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the District Attorney’s Office in Rio Arriba County to find out more about this case and why Martinez wasn’t kept behind bars. Deputy District Attorney Haley Murphy issued the following statement:

“The District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to have the Defendant detained in January 2021 and twice argued that he should be held pending trial in his felony case after he violated his conditions of release. The Court released the Defendant all three times. 

He was arrested twice this summer for violating restraining orders that prohibited contact with Ms. Martinez. Unfortunately, those cases could not be pursued within the required 60 day timeframe because the victim would not agree to cooperate. This case is a reflection of the very real danger posed by those involved in the cycle of domestic violence. Our office has been in contact with the family and will be seeking justice on behalf of Cora.”

Court documents show they did try to keep him locked up back in February but were denied and his attorney fought to get him out.

Española’s Chief of Police, Roger Jimenez, issued the following statement:

“Our detectives and officers worked tirelessly on this case and two of our detectives had worked twenty-four hours on a prior case when they received this call.  We are relieved and happy we can offer the family any sort of comfort during a traumatic event. 

Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to the family.  We will continue to offer the family any resources and information we can during this investigation and until the case concludes.”