SANTA BARBARA — Nearly four years being arrested for torturing a homeless woman, Samuel Joseph Martinez was declared fit to stand trial in the courtroom of Santa Barbara Superior Judge Frank Ochoa on Thursday.
The alleged incident occurred nearly five years ago on July 22, 2006, when a Westside area pedestrian discovered a badly beaten and partially nude 53-year-old homeless woman just outside a local women’s rescue center.
The victim was unconscious, bound and gagged, with multiple contusions upon her torso and limbs. After several days in a comatose state at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, the victim eventually recovered and ultimately moved out of the county.
Her alleged perpetrator wouldn’t be arrested for another year, however.
According to Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey, detectives “worked numerous leads, many of which led directly to Martinez as the principal suspect,” but none of which were conclusive enough to bring charges against him.
A year later, however, new witness information was unearthed by detectives who served an arrest warrant for Martinez.
“Because of the fact that injuries were apparently inflicted over a sustained time period, the D.A. also brought charges of torture,” McCaffrey told reporters.
Martinez has been held in Santa Barbara County Jail on a $500,000 bail for more than three years, during which time his mental state has become an issue. According to county jail staff psychiatrist Theresa Boulette, issues related to Martinez’s competency to stand trial arose following several episodes of “freaking out” during his incarceration.
At the recent April 21 hearing, Dr. Boulette responded to questioning from Assistant District Attorney Paula Waldman and Conflict Defense Attorney Joe Allen, indicating that her recent observations of Martinez in jail led her to the conclusion that he is “sufficiently, not perfectly, competent to stand trial.”
Adding that during her interviews with him Martinez had angrily threatened to harm custody officers and inmates, Boulette recommended to Judge Ochoa that Martinez’s mental state may worsen and that he should stand trial sooner rather than later.
In ruling for the competency of Martinez, Ochoa set a trial date for May 31.