SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Alberto Gabriel Martinez held his third child, a newborn girl he named Perla, for the first time on June 19.
The next day, the Sunnyside 23-year-old mysteriously left Sunnyside Community Hospital where she was born, never to return.
“We still have many unanswered questions,” said Flor Rodriguez, sister of Martinez’s live-in girlfriend, Irene Valencia, who is the mother of Perla and Martinez’s other two young children.
Family and friends remember homicide victim Martinez for his loud laughter and doting fatherly ways. They have been holding fundraisers to help pay for his funeral expenses and support Valencia, 22, who learned of her boyfriend’s death when detectives came to visit her at the hospital, still recovering from Perla’s birth.
They are washing cars, holding yard sales and placing donation cans in area businesses.
They describe Martinez as funny and outgoing, enjoying family barbecues above all other activities. He also played the Angry Birds video game with his 3-year-old son, Alberto Jr.
They said he chose the name Perla for his newborn girl.
“That’s the name that her daddy chose and she looks just like him,” said Rodriguez, who has emerged as a family spokeswoman. Valencia declined an interview request.
The couple’s other child is their daughter Roslyn, who is 2.
Martinez was born in California, where he attended school, but he had lived in Sunnyside for roughly five years, said Rodriguez. His parents, Jose and Teresa Martinez, live in Prosser.
Martinez’s body was found June 21 in the trunk of an abandoned car south of Toppenish. An autopsy determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Yakima County prosecutors have filed second-degree murder charges against 22-year-old Elliot Leroy White and 20-year-old Guillermina Sanchez-Cardenas. They are in the Yakima County jail on $1 million bail.
Investigators believe Martinez, after expressing concerns to his family about a “setup,” left the night of June 20 intending to meet Sanchez in a remote area off U.S. Highway 97 where his body was found, court records said.
A law enforcement officer found both of the suspects in the area the night before Martinez’s body was discovered. Also, when White was caught, he was wearing shoes belonging to Martinez, who was shoeless when his body was discovered, detectives said.
Rodriguez’s brother, Erasmo, worked with Martinez for Hansen-Rice Construction based in Nampa, Idaho. He knew Martinez had met Sanchez and exchanged phone numbers recently, Rodriguez said during a break from Friday’s car wash. She was unsure how they knew each other.
Martinez also invited Erasmo Rodriguez to go with him to the mysterious meeting but he declined, concerned about work the next morning, she said.
“It’s a good thing he remembered the name (Sanchez),” she said.
Investigators have said in court documents that the family’s statements helped them find Sanchez and White.
Still, Martinez’s loved ones would like even more answers.
“We would like to hear the details, but we think maybe we will never know the truth,” Rodriguez said.
Martinez’s death was the second of three Yakima Valley homicides in recent weeks.
Preston Yahne, a 22-year-old Prosser High School graduate, was stabbed and run over on June 14, his body also disposed of in the trunk of a car. A man has been charged with first-degree murder in that case.
No arrests have been reported in connection with the third homicide, Saturday’s shooting death near Toppenish of 20-year-old Pedro Marquez-Villa, whose last known address was in Whatcom County.
• Ross Courtney can be reached at 509-930-8798 or firstname.lastname@example.org.