Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Thursday, October 11, 2012


15 years ago on this day, Martha Sanchez was murdered by Luis Salazar in her own home, her own stepson, Erick Martinez witnessed the stabbing and tried to save her but he was stabbed in the chest but survived. Luis Salazar was executed by lethal injection in Texas on 11 March 2009. He also had stabbed another convenience store clerk, Melissa Morales to death in San Antonio to death in 1992.

SUMMARY: Salazar entered Martha Sanchez’s home through a window, grabbed a knife from the kitchen and entered Sanchez’s bedroom, where he began stabbing the woman in the chest. Sanchez’s son, 10-year-old Erick, woke up to his mother's scream and went into his mother's bedroom, where he saw Salazar stabbing her. When Erick attempted to grab the knife, Salazar stabbed the boy in the chest. Sanchez ran to get help from a neighbor. Salazar later called 9-1-1 to turn himself into police, and confessed to the crime. The medical examiner testified that Sanchez suffered physical injuries that indicated an attempted sexual assault. In testimony at his trial, Salazar did not deny stabbing Sanchez and her son, but that he felt good during acts of violence and that he had dreamed of killing people.

CASE: In October of 1997, Martha Sanchez lived at 250 Future Street in San Antonio with her husband Oscar Ochoa, ten-year-old stepson Erick, two-year old daughter Brianna, and four-month old son Timothy. For approximately three years, Luis Salazar lived next door to Martha Sanchez and her family and was well-acquainted with them. In fact, Ochoa had helped Salazar obtain employment at the Super K-Mart where Ochoa himself worked. The family’s encounters with Salazar, however, were not always positive. Ochoa testified that earlier in 1997 Salazar approached Martha in her home and asked if he could borrow some sugar, but “not that kind of sugar.” Ochoa confronted Salazar and ordered him to stay away from the family’s home. According to Ochoa’s testimony, Martha thereafter became afraid of Salazar. Martha’s 19-year-old niece Nicole also testified that she had served as a babysitter at the family’s home and spent the night there on numerous occasions. On several of those occasions, she explained, Salazar would call late in the evening asking for Martha’s company. According to Nicole, however, Martha refused to speak with Salazar. Salazar moved out of his house around September of 1997 and took up residence at 122 Ashland in San Antonio. Sanchez last spoke to Ochoa in the early morning hours of October 11, 1997. As was his custom when working the “graveyard” shift, Ochoa called home from work at about 12:30 a.m. Evidence indicated that, at some time after that phone call, Salazar entered Martha’s home through the left front window, using an empty milk crate to climb into the home. A trail of muddy footprints led from the window inside the house. Salazar retrieved a knife from the kitchen and entered Martha’s bedroom. As Salazar began stabbing Martha, a struggle ensued, leaving the bedroom in disarray. Stepson Erick testified that he awoke to Martha’s scream: “Luis, why are you doing this? Leave me alone!” Erick then entered the bedroom where he saw his stepmother struggle while Salazar was stabbing her. As Erick attempted to grab the knife, Salazar stabbed him in the chest. Martha instructed Erick to leave and call for help, and he did so, ultimately finding his way to the home of a woman named Sylvia, who lived nearby. Sylvia testified that she answered her door to find Erick bleeding from his chest and begging frantically for help. He told her that someone had broken into the home and stabbed both him and his stepmother. Erick identified Salazar as the attacker. Sylvia called 911 and sent her future son-in-law Adrian to the Sanchez home to investigate. Adrian removed the two youngest children, Brianna and Timothy, safely from the home. He testified that he then entered the home again and, after checking Martha’s pulse, realized that she was dead. An EMS unit soon arrived, confirmed Martha’s death and transported Erick to University Hospital. Salazar had fled the scene. Later, however, Salazar telephoned 911 to turn himself into police, who arrested him without incident and informed him of his Miranda rights. Meanwhile, police approached Ochoa at work and informed him of his wife’s death. Physical evidence showed that Martha had suffered stab wounds to the heart, lungs, and aorta, causing her death. Moreover, the medical examiner testified that Martha’s death was not immediate; it took several minutes for her to die. In addition, Martha suffered contusions and skin abrasions on the outer thigh, as well as contusions to the inner thigh. According to the medical examiner, although Martha suffered no genital injuries, no sperm was present, and her clothes had not been removed, this pattern of bruises and scratches indicated an attempted sexual assault. Evidence at the scene also indicated that the telephone lines outside the home had been cut and that the interior of the home was in shambles, although no fingerprints were found on the front windows. Investigators found a cordless phone under Martha’s left arm and the bloody kitchen knife on a coffee table near Martha’s bedroom. Salazar testified at trial. Although he did not deny that his actions caused Martha’s death, he offered his own version of the incident. He claimed that, on the evening of October 11, he and his brother went to a friend’s home in San Antonio, where they smoked marijuana and snorted cocaine, and they drank beer and liquor. He left the home between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., went to a local taco bar but was unable to find a ride home. He thus decided to go to his old home on Future Street, which his mother-in-law still owned and at which he still kept some personal belongings. Salazar testified that although he intended to go to the home at 254 Future, he mistakenly approached Sanchez’s home at 250 Future. And because he no longer had his key to the home at 254 Future, he decided to enter through the window. Once inside, he claimed (believing that he was in his own home) that he heard a frightening noise. Salazar then obtained a knife from the kitchen. He testified that he walked out of the kitchen, bumped into a person he could not see, became frightened, and began stabbing the unknown person. Salazar further stated that, during his stabbing frenzy, he felt a pain in his arm, realized that someone was behind him, and he began stabbing that person, as well. He then saw the person behind him and heard the victim say “Run!” or “run Erick!” According to Salazar, he subsequently realized that he was in the wrong home and simply left the house. Salazar testified that his state of mind during the incident was similar to a black-out. He stated that he did not remember Martha screaming “Luis, why are you doing this to me?” he did not remember Brianna crying and he did not remember Erick telling him to leave Martha alone. He also denied cutting the telephone lines at 250 Future and denied trying to rape Martha, although he offered no explanation for the bruises and abrasions on her legs. At trial, Salazar admitted stabbing Martha Sanchez to death after entering her house without consent. He further testified that he found her attractive, he desired to have intercourse with her, and he had recently propositioned her. Salazar also admitted that he told his wife before the murder that violence made him feel good and that he had dreams about killing people. The prosecution also presented evidence that Martha Sanchez was afraid of Salazar and that Salazar had committed a prior sexual assault on an acquaintance, although he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. There was evidence that the telephone lines had been cut before Salazar went into the house. Salazar’s muddy footprints led directly from the point of entry to the kitchen where he obtained two knives, which were the murder weapons. He then went to Martha Sanchez’s bedroom. The only signs of struggle were in Martha Sanchez’s bedroom and her blood was found only in her bedroom. Martha Sanchez’s body was found on the floor of her bedroom on top of some of her bedding. There was no reason for Salazar to be in Martha Sanchez’s house, other than his claim that he entered by mistake. The medical examiner testified that the bruise pattern on Martha Sanchez’s legs was consistent with a person wrapping his hands around her knees and legs in a forcible attempt to separate her legs. The medical examiner concluded, based on her experience with known rape victims, that the bruise pattern indicated an attempted sexual assault. She gave specific testimony regarding the age, size and placement of the bruises and abrasions on Martha Sanchez’s body and explained why those factors supported her conclusion. She also testified that the bruise pattern on Martha Sanchez’s legs, the mud on Martha Sanchez’s inner thigh, and the fingernail abrasions on her thighs was inconsistent with Salazar’s version of events. The medical examiner gave specific, cogent reasons for her conclusion that the bruise pattern indicated an attempted sexual assault. She pointed to ten different contusions and a “scratch abrasion” which formed this pattern. She placed particular importance on four contusions on the inside of her knee and thigh. The defense called no witnesses other than Salazar and rested after Salazar’s testimony. Salazar was charged with a single count of capital murder committed during the course of committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault and burglary. At trial, Salazar’s intent to commit a sexual assault on the night of the murder was an important issue. Among other evidence, the prosecution elicited testimony from the medical examiner that the pattern of contusions on the victim’s body indicated an attempted sexual assault contemporaneous with her death. The medical examiner’s opinion about the pattern of contusions on Martha Sanchez’s body was not expressed in the autopsy report, and defense counsel attempted unsuccessfully to keep this testimony from the jury. Defense counsel also attempted to discredit the medical examiner’s opinion on cross-examination, but he did not consult with an independent pathologist or call any rebuttal witnesses to refute the medical examiner’s testimony. Although a number of lesser-included offenses were included in the jury charge, Salazar was convicted of capital murder as charged in the indictment and sentenced to death. He appealed directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and death sentence in an unpublished opinion. UPDATE: A man who crawled through the window of a San Antonio home and fatally stabbed a mother of 3 has been executed tonight in Huntsville. Luis Salazar thanked his friends and relatives for their friendship and fellowship and expressed love to his mother, brothers, sister and his children. Salazar never acknowledged the family of 1997 Martha Sanchez or her slaying in an attack police say happened after he'd been on a drugs and drinking binge. Sanchez's oldest child, Erick, -- who was 10 at the time of the killing and tried to stop the slaying -- was among the witnesses. In his final statement, Salazar referred to his own family, saying: "I'm going to miss them and take them with me in my heart. Thanks to everyone praying for me." He said: "My heart is going ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump." Salazar then laughed. He asked for forgiveness and recited the Lord's Prayer. Salazar was asking for forgiveness for what he called the "sins that I can remember" when the drugs began taking effect. Salazar testified at his trial that after a night of marijuana, cocaine and drinking he thought he was in his own house just before dawn Oct. 11, 1997, and that Martha Sanchez, 28, and her three children were intruders. Evidence, however, showed the telephone wires at the home next door to where Salazar previously lived had been cut and Sanchez's injuries indicated Salazar had tried to rape her before she was fatally stabbed. He denied cutting the phone lines or the attempted rape. The woman's 2-year-old daughter was asleep in the same bed and a 6-month-old son was in a crib nearby. Sanchez's screams woke her older son, 10-year-old Erick, who was asleep in an adjacent room and he went into his mother's room to see what was going on. Then he tried to defend his mother from the knife-wielding intruder he knew as the man who used to live next door and was stabbed in the chest as his mother yelled at him to run outside and get help. Leaving a trail of blood, the boy pounded on the doors of homes until he found a neighbor to respond. Salazar had attacked his mother and him, he told the neighbor. Almost a year later, the boy showed a Bexar County jury the scars from his wound as he testified at Salazar's capital murder trial. A neighbor testified how she changed the clothes of the 2-year-old who had her mother's blood all over her. Almost four years before the attack, Salazar had pleaded guilty and received two years probation for misdemeanor assault for a sexual attack on an 18-year-old mentally disabled high school student. And some four years before that, he was given probation for four counts of aggravated robbery for holding up convenience stores. Richard Langlois, one of Salazar's trial lawyers, said the previous convictions were difficult to overcome in the minds of jurors who had been asked to spare Salazar's life because he's endured an abusive childhood. "It was a situation where he had a prior sexual assault," Langlois said. "I think our defense was that he got in the wrong house, that he lived a couple doors away." But he said when evidence showed the phone wires to Sanchez's home had been cut, "That kind of blew that." "He had a violent history," said Bert Richardson, the former Bexar County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Salazar. Testimony also showed that when he'd lived nearby, he made sexual passes at Sanchez, whose husband had helped Salazar get a job at a Kmart. Sanchez's husband was at work the night of the slaying. A neighbor who answered Erick's cries for help saw a man riding a bicycle fleeing from the house. Salazar called police later that day and said he wanted to surrender. "I think the whole town was looking for him at that point," Richardson said. "The guy was on probation for three or four aggravated robberies and had raped a mentally retarded girl. But even if you throw that aside, (this case) was gut-wrenching because of the kids. They were all there." Erick's wounds were superficial and he recovered. The emotional and psychological scars were more lasting, Richardson said. "It kind of tore his life apart," Richardson said. "He's had a few bumps in the road." UPDATE: A 17-year-old cold case murder was solved with the confession of a killer just moments from the death chamber. Luis Cervantes Salazar was executed in March 2009 for the stabbing murder of a woman in October 1992. But shortly before his death, he was encouraged by his spiritual counselor to speak with Texas Rangers about other crimes he committed. He confessed to the 1992 stabbing of a young female clerk at the Stop and Go at Woodlawn and 36th Street in San Antonio, just an hour and a half before he was executed. San Antonio police say his confession solved the murder of Melissa Morales. Salazar had not previously been considered a suspect. After Salazar's death, Texas Rangers contacted SAPD cold case detectives with the information. After learning of the details of the Capital Murder, it was clear that the victim was Melissa Morales, a store clerk who had been stabbed thirteen times while working at the Stop n Go at 2409 NW 36th Street on April 19, 1992, Easter Sunday. Once the audio taped interview was received and transcribed, SAPD Detectives went about verifying Salazar's confession. Salazar gave details about the Capital Murder that could have only been known by the murderer. These details confirmed that Salazar had murdered Melissa Morales during a robbery. On Thursday April 2nd, 2009 SAPD detectives notified Melissa Morales' parents, Stephen and Alma DeLeon, and her grandparents, Jesse and Carolina Robledo of Salazar's confession. After Melissa Morales' murder, her parents, grandparents, and Carrie Willborn lobbied Legislature with State Representative Leticia Van de Putte to require all convenience stores to install security cameras. Because of their efforts the bill was passed. http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/Pending/09/mar09.htm

Melissa Morales

QUOTE 1: "My biggest fear was this wasn't going to happen," Sanchez's mother, Gloria Rodriguez, said after watching Salazar die. "I was waiting for this day."

QUOTE 2: Erick Martinez, who took his father's last name, said the execution of his mother's killer allowed him to "put away something from the past."

"It wasn't difficult," he said. "I was kind of looking forward to it."

AUTHOR: Family members of Martha Sanchez who was stabbed to death on 11 October 1997 by Luis Salazar. Luis Salazar was executed by lethal injection in Texas on 11 March 2009.

COMMENTS: Luis Salazar was guilty beyond any doubt at all and he also a repeat offender who had committed another murder 5 years before. I walked in Erick Martinez’s shoes when he had to witness his stepmother getting stabbed and sexually assaulted, he survived a stabbed wound and was able to testify against his stepmother’s killer. At the same time, I also felt for Melissa Morales’s family, as they finally found her killer. I do hope they find comfort and closure.

            Bud Welch, a man whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing on 19 April 1995. He once in a debate at Bridgewater College with Jeff Jacoby, said that the death penalty is actually difficult for the family members who suffered from a murder's crime.

"Killing someone is the reverse of that. It actually makes the murder victim's family member feel re-victimized all over again when the perpetrator is executed," said Welch.

If you hear what Erick Martinez said (see Quote 2) after watching Luis Salazar die, you can easily debunk what Bud Welch said. Erick did not feel re-victimized, he was satisfied that justice was served. He was able to put the past behind and know that Luis Salazar will never hurt anybody again.

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