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.

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