Judge rules Trudy Martinez has no right to in-person pre-sentence interview

  • Judge William Johnson wrote Trudy Martinez has no right to an in-person interview with the probation officers preparing her pre-sentence report
  • Martinez pleaded guilty in March 2020 to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement
  • Alonzo Padilla’s motion does not appear in court records and he did not respond to questions about the possible improper sealing of his motion

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trudy Martinez, 29, of Twin Lakes, has no right to an in-person interview with the federal probation officers tasked with preparing a pre-sentence report and determining the range of her suggested sentence, a federal district court judge ruled.

Trudy Martinez

Martinez pleaded guilty on March 16, 2020, to voluntary manslaughter and a firearms enhancement for shooting her sister-in-law Cornelia McCabe with an AR-15 on April 26, 2019. She faces a sentence of 10 to 15 years.

In an Aug. 18, 2020 order, District Judge William Johnson wrote he would grant Alonzo Padilla‘s motion to continue sentencing the case, but only because there was good cause and not because he agreed with Padilla’s position that Martinez was entitled to an in-person interview. He continued sentencing until Nov. 30, 2020.

“To be clear, Defendant is not entitled to an in-person interview with Probation for the purposes of completing her PSR,” Johnson wrote. “In fact, the Court finds her insistence on an in-person interview to be unreasonable, especially when she cites no legal authority which would require an in person interview, or even that an interview is required at all.”

Padilla filed a motion on July 21, 2020, and in it said that he wanted a 90-day continuance “in order for an in-person presentence interview to be conducted given ‘the serious nature of this case,'” according to a response in opposition filed on July 23, 2020, by prosecutor Thomas Aliberti.

Padilla’s motion was numbered 36 and does not appear in the court docket. It also does not appear that Padilla filed a motion, or for permission to seal his motion to continue the case. Padilla, a public defender, did not return a request for information about his motion.

Writing in New Mexico In Depth, Jeff Proctor illuminated a pattern and practice by prosecutors and public defenders to improperly seal documents in federal criminal cases, contrary to local and federal rules on sealing procedures.

“Judges, not lawyers, are supposed to decide which documents are made available to the public and which should remain secret through an established protocol based in part on decades of case law: Attorneys must submit a written request asking a judge to seal records and a judge must consent before records are sealed,” Proctor wrote.

At the heart of Padilla’s request, which may be sealed in violation of court rules, is the demand that she be interviewed in person by probation. In-person interviews are problematic because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to court filings.

“The Court has no way of determining how long the pandemic and the corresponding ban on in-person visits at the Santa Fe Detention Center will last, or when an in-person interview can be safely conducted in the foreseeable future.” Johnson wrote.

Probation officers are “routinely” interviewing people in other criminal cases, leading Johnson to be at a “total loss to understand how Defendant is prejudiced if she’s interviewed by Probation with her
counsel participating utilizing videoconferencing or telephonic equipment.”

Johnson wrote he was admonishing Padilla that he will not grant further continuances solely because she wants an in-person interview.

“The PSR will be completed, with or without Defendant’s cooperation,” Johnson wrote. “The Court will consider Defendant’s ability to participate waived if she refuses to cooperate unless the interview is conducted in-person.”

Johnson wrote that Padilla also asked for more time to interview members of Martinez’s family, on the Navajo Nation, who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Sentencing is currently set for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 30 in the Cimarron courtroom in Albuquerque and will likely be available via video conference.

According to the plea deal, Martinez intentionally killed McCabe during a sudden quarrel and therefore, without malice.

One of McCabe’s children told investigators she witnessed her mother’s killing and that Martinez first pushed her mother before going back to her truck to retrieve an AR-15 carbine, which she then loaded in the house, FBI Agent Jeffrey Wright wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant. McCabe is referred to as “Jane Doe” in his affidavit.

“DOE attempted to take the rifle away from Martinez,” Wright wrote. “As DOE approached MARTINEZ at the entrance to the Hogan, MARTINEZ pointed the rifle at DOE and fired the weapon two times. The first round missed DOE, but the second round struck DOE in the abdomen, after which DOE fell to the floor.”

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Continue reading “Judge rules Trudy Martinez has no right to in-person pre-sentence interview”

Woman pleads guilty in 2019 Twin Lakes killing

  • Trudy Martinez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement
  • Martinez shot her sister-in-law, Cornelia McCabe, in the abdomen in Twin Lakes, in front of at least one of the woman’s children
  • She faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a max of 15 years
  • Sentencing is tentatively set for Aug. 24, 2020

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Twin Lakes woman pleaded guilty, March 16, 2020, to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement for shooting and killing her sister-in-law with an AR-15 in April 2019.

mug of Trudy Martinez
Trudy Martinez

Trudy Martinez, 29, of Twin Lakes, will spend at least 10 years in prison for killing Cornelia McCabe, 36, her sister-in-law. She is identified in court documents as C.M.

Martinez pleaded guilty in front of federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones who deferred acceptance of the plea to the district judge sentencing her in the case, according to the minutes.

When she was first arrested, Federal Bureau of Investigations agents charged her with an open count of murder.

Federal prosecutor Thomas Aliberti signed the plea deal and filed the criminal information charging her with voluntary manslaughter and the firearm enhancement. Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years while the firearm enhancement carries a minimum 10-year sentence.

According to the plea deal, Martinez intentionally killed McCabe during a sudden quarrel and therefore, without malice.

One of McCabe’s children told investigators she witnessed her mother’s killing and that Martinez first pushed her mother before going back to her truck to retrieve an AR-15 carbine, which she then loaded in the house, FBI Agent Jeffrey Wright wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant. McCabe is referred to as “Jane Doe” in his affidavit.

“DOE attempted to take the rifle away from Martinez,” Wright wrote. “As DOE approached MARTINEZ at the entrance to the Hogan, MARTINEZ pointed the rifle at DOE and fired the weapon two times. The first round missed DOE, but the second round struck DOE in the abdomen, after which DOE fell to the floor.”

Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 24, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Cimarron Courtroom in Albuquerque in front of District Court Judge William Johnson. It was moved to August after Martinez’s attorney, Irma Rivas, filed an unopposed motion to push out the sentencing date because Martinez wants her pretrial interview to be in person but the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated in-person visits at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, where she is being housed.

Continue reading “Woman pleads guilty in 2019 Twin Lakes killing”

Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The autopsy reports for the two people killed in a car wreck in October 2018 shows they both had been drinking and consumed methamphetamine before the crash.

Zuni Pueblo, eastern edge. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

Their drinking and methamphetamine use was cited by federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall as the reason for the sentence he gave Joey Unkestine in a plea deal: 3 years and 10 months.

Joey Unkestine killed his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine and injured Edaakie’s child, referred to in court documents as D.G., when he crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Oct. 18, 2018, on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo.

On June 20, 2019, Joey Unkestine pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment. On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the crash, Joey Unkestine was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison, per a plea agreement signed by Mendenhall. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the plea. Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl entered the sentence.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Joey Unkestine’s blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.36 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range, citing United States v Lente. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol, Mendenhall wrote in the sentencing memorandum:

The two adult victims in this case had been drinking in the vehicle. Both of their deaths are tragic, but the circumstances of this case suggest an upward departure or variance is not necessarily warranted.

According to Edaakie’s autopsy report, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 and methamphetamine in her system.

Continue reading “Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC”

3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash

  • Joey Unkestine crashed his car on Oct. 18, 2018, killing 2 people
  • Prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall set Joey Unkestine’s sentence at 3 years 10 months
  • Unkestine had a history of alcohol-related convictions
  • Mendenhall: Killing two people did not warrant a heftier sentence

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the day he rolled his Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend, his brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, Joey Unkestine received a three year and 10 month sentence.

The sentence was no surprise. When Unkestine pleaded guilty on June 20, 2019, to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall had already agreed to the binding sentence when he brought it to Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter.

Ultimately, Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued the sentence, which only carried two years of probation. Mendenhall asked for three.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo on Oct. 18, 2018, killing his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine, referred to in court documents as K.E. and E.U. and injuring his girlfriend’s son, referred to as D.G. His blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.35 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road. For comparison, the legal-per-se limit is 0.08 and above 0.40 can be fatal.

Opioids and methamphetamine were also found in his system, although he claimed he used no drugs that day. The brother and girlfriend had also been drinking while he was driving. D.G. received “only scrapes and bruises,” Mendenhall wrote.

Unkestine had several prior convictions “involving alcohol” but all of them were tribal, Mendenhall wrote.

Continue reading “3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash”

Trudy Martinez: Cornelia McCabe — 4-26-2019

Suspect: Trudy Martinez

Victim: Cornelia McCabe, 36

Charges: Open count of murder pleaded down to voluntary manslaughter

Status: Guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement

Date of incident: April 26, 2019

Investigative agencies: Federal Bureau of Investigations

Location: Twin Lakes, McKinley County, Navajo Nation

Relationship to victim: Sister-in-law

Federal Magistrate case number: 19-mj-01109

Federal District case number: 20-cr-00972

Prosecutor: Thomas Aliberti

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Defense attorney: Alonzo Padilla

 

Summary

On April 26, 2019, Trudy Martinez fatally shot her sister-in-law, Cornelia McCabe, 36, in the abdomen with an AR-15 before fleeing with her children, according to court documents. On May 9, FBI agents arrested her in Gallup on a murder warrant.

On March 16, 2020, Martinez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a firearms enhancement. There is no agreement as to the sentence. Sentencing is tentatively set for Aug. 24, 2020 in Albuquerque.

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The shooting

On April 26, 2019, Trudy Martinez, 28, of Twin Lakes, allegedly shot her sister-in-law, identified in court documents as McCabe, 36, once in the abdomen with an AR-15 assault-style rifle in her Twin Lakes home, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Jeffrey Wright wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant dated April 30.

mug shot of Trudy Martinez
Trudy Martinez

Investigators talked to McCabe’s daughter who told them she came home from school and saw Martinez outside the house, cleaning up the yard, before she went into the house, Wright wrote.

“She was upset and complained that no one was helping her clean,” Wright wrote. “DOE was inside watching over her children. C.M. observed MARTINEZ enter the home and push Doe. The two began to have a physical altercation. Martinez yelled at DOE and DOE’s children to leave the house.”

McCabe saw Martinez walk outside and get the carbine from a truck parked nearby. Martinez allegedly brought it into the house and loaded it, he wrote.

“DOE attempted to take the rifle away from Martinez,” Wright wrote. “As DOE approached MARTINEZ at the entrance to the Hogan, MARTINEZ pointed the rifle at DOE and fired the weapon two times. The first round missed DOE, but the second round struck DOE in the abdomen, after which DOE fell to the floor.”

Martinez allegedly pointed the gun at the girl and yelled something at her. She ran next door to her grandmother’s house and the girl’s aunt, referred to as E.T., went back to the house with her to take care of McCabe, he wrote.

In her own interview, E.T. told investigators that she was at her house making jewelry with her husband. Sometime during the evening, one of the children ran to her and said that “Trudy shot my mom,” he wrote.

“The children explained that their mother (DOE) was laying on the floor in her house,” Wright wrote. “E.T. did not hear a gunshot, but noted that music was playing while she worked on the jewelry.”

When she went to the neighboring house, McCabe was sitting against a bed, awake and talking, he wrote.

“DOE stated ‘Trudy shot me,'” he wrote. “DOE than said that she needed to go to the hospital.”

Near Twin Lakes, NM on U.S. Highway 491. Photo by Steve Lyon/Flickr. CC BY-SA

E.T. told investigators that Martinez was in the attached home, shouting “What the fuck are you looking at?!” Wright wrote.

“She then stated to E.T., ‘she was beating me up,'” he wrote. “MARTINEZ explained to E.T. the altercation originated with the trash.”

E.T. then told other family members to get the truck, which they drove to McCabe’s house. They loaded her into it and drove to the gas station in Tolikai to meet the ambulance, he wrote.

“E.T. noted that approximately two weeks prior to the shooting, MARTINEZ was outside her home shooting a gun,” Wright wrote.

McCabe’s daughter also told the investigators the carbine used was the same kind that police officers were carrying at the crime scene and that Martinez would shoot the rifle at the back of the house.

That same day, investigators spoke to G.M., identified as Martinez’s brother. He told them Martinez called him after the shooting.

“MARTINEZ told G.M. that she had ‘done something wrong,'” Wright wrote. “G.M. asked MARTINEZ what was it that she had done. MARTINEZ responded that she had ‘shot Corn.’ ‘Corn’ is a nickname used by DOE.”

Martinez’s niece, K.M., said she had previously talked to Martinez about the AR-15 and that she had posted a photo of herself holding it on Facebook.

Fugitive

While Wright only applied for arrest warrant on April 30, 2019, the following day, the FBI offered a $1,000 reward for information on Martinez’s whereabouts.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher wrote that Martinez fled from the scene of the killing with her children, a 10-year-old girl, a 9-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy.

“She should be considered armed and dangerous,” Fisher wrote.

FBI agents arrested her in Gallup on May 9, 2019, according to a press release.

Court proceedings

Arraignment and detention

On May 14, she was ordered held without bail by federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough and she waived a preliminary hearing.

Martinez waived a preliminary hearing and grand jury presentment seven times, the last on Feb. 21, 2020.

Plea

On March 16, 2020, Martinez pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging her with voluntary manslaughter along with a firearms enhancement.

Mug shot of Trudy Martinez from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Trudy Martinez

Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years while the firearms enhancement carries a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Federal prosecutor Thomas Aliberti signed the plea deal and and it was accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones, although final acceptance was deferred until sentencing by a district court judge, according to the minutes.

According to the plea deal, Martinez intentionally killed McCabe during a sudden quarrel and therefore, without malice.

Martinez’s sentence is at the discretion of the sentencing judge but prosecutors agreed she is entitled to multiple reductions in the sentencing guidelines because she accepted responsibility.

Both prosecutors and Martinez’s defense attorney can argue for whatever sentence they want, according to the plea.

Pending sentencing

Sentencing was set for Aug. 24, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Cimarron Courtroom in Albuquerque in front of District Court Judge William Johnson.

On April 13, 2020, Martinez’s attorney, Irma Rivas, filed an unopposed motion to push out the sentencing date because Martinez wants her pretrial interview to be in person but the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated in-person visits at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, where she is being housed.

On July 21, her new attorney, Alonzo Padilla, appears to have filed a motion under seal to push out her sentencing until probation officers could interview her in person.

District Judge William Johnson admonished Padilla and wrote that Martinez has no right to an in-person interview and set sentencing in the case for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 30, 2020.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to victim Cornelia McCabe as C.M., the initials used in court documents, because her name was not available when the story first published.

See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

Joey Unkestine: Elison Unkestine, Katherine Edaakie — 10-18-2018

Suspect: Joey Unkestine

Victim: Katherine Edaakie (Joey Unkestine’s girlfriend)

Victim: Elison Unkestine (Joey Unkestine’s brother)

Non-fatal victim: A child, D.G., 9 (Edaakie’s son)

Charges: Two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment

Status: Guilty plea to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment; sentenced

Sentence: 3 years, 10 months years followed by 2 years probation

Date of incident: Oct. 18, 2018

Incident type: DWI

Agency: FBI

Location: Highway 53, Zuni Pueblo, McKinley County

Magistrate case number: None

District case number: 19-cr-0094

Prosecutor: Frederick Mendenhall

 

Summary

On Oct. 18, 2018, Joey Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, killing his brother, Elison Unkestine and his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie and injuring his girlfriend’s son (D.G.). He was allegedly drunk.

His blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.35 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road.

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The incident, plea and sentence

Joey Unkestine was driving between 74 and 93 mph on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, after he had been drinking extensively, when he rolled his 2002 Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend and brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, D.G., according to his plea agreement.

Zuni Pueblo, eastern edge. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall, testing would later show Unkestine’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.36. For comparison, the legal-per-se limit is 0.08 and above 0.40 can be fatal.

Opioids and methamphetamine were also found in his system, although he claimed he used no drugs that day. The brother and girlfriend had also been drinking while he was driving. D.G. received “only scrapes and bruises,” Mendenhall wrote.

Unkestine had several prior convictions “involving alcohol” but all of them were tribal, Mendenhall wrote.

On March 18, 2019, a grand jury indicted Unkestine on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, according to the indictment.

On June 20, 2019, Unkestine pleaded guilty to the charges. Mendenhall and defense attorney Irma Rivas signed the plea deal. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the binding plea agreement.

According to the plea agreement, Unkestine would only receive a sentence of three years, 10 months. Ultimately, he received two years of probation when prosecutors asked for three.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, three years, 10 months is the “upper-guideline sentence” and reflects the seriousness of the offense.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol.

Mendenhall did not write why, specifically, he agreed to a three year sentence for the deaths of two people, one of which left a child without his mother. However, he noted that both he and the defense minimized the uncertainty that comes with a trial.

Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl sentenced Unkestine on Oct. 18, 2019, to the three years, 10 months stipulated in the plea agreement and two years probation, a year less than requested by the prosecutor, according to the sentencing minute sheet.

No investigative documents appear in the court record.

 

Improperly sealed documents?

According to the local rules and federal rules, documents are only supposed to be filed under seal for good reason and a record of the motion to file a document under seal is supposed to appear on the court docket, as outlined by Jeff Proctor in New Mexico In Depth.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, the only document that was docketed but is not public is #27, the pre-sentencing investigation report by the probation department.

However, according to the docket, entry 28 was also sealed, as were 30 and 31. In addition, documents 34-36 appear to be sealed with no motions for sealing and no record of sealing, a process which is supposed to warrant a judge’s approval.

According to Sealing Court Records and Proceedings: A Pocket Guide, “(there) should be a public record of what is sealed and why, consistent with the reason for sealing.”

Autopsies

According to Edaakie’s autopsy report, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 and methamphetamine in her system.

According to Elison Unkestine’s autopsy report, his blood-alcohol level was 0.14 and he also had methamphetamine in his system.

Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Maria Olivares wrote, in a field investigation, the SUV was heavily damaged and Elison Unkestine had been ejected from it and his right hand was amputated.

In Edaakie’s field investigation, Olivares found Edaakie’s body was in the east-bound lane.

 

See the documents on Google Drive