EVERETT — Carlos Alberto Martinez was a respected figure in east Snohomish County.
He rose through the ranks at the Monroe Police Department to become a sergeant. When a 2006 opening came up on the school board, he was tapped to fill the post. The appointment recognized the years he’d spent as a police officer, going into elementary school classrooms to help teach students to avoid drugs and make good choices.
Now 61, his police career years in the past, Martinez sat in Snohomish County Superior Court on Thursday and heard himself accused of sexually fixating on one of those students, a girl he met when she was just 10.
Martinez was “well liked. He was charismatic,” deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul told jurors. But over a period of years, he also secretly groomed the girl into a “very twisted relationship” that began with inappropriate contact in Monroe when she was in her teens and continued until she was in her early 20s and living as Martinez’ girlfriend in Texas.
Although the trial will explore nearly a decade of interactions between Martinez and the girl, Paul directed jurors to May 2004. That’s when Martinez’s wife left town for a week and the girl came over daily to babysit the couple’s two young children.
Martinez asked the then-15-year-old to bring a bikini to wear while she helped him wash his horses, jurors were told.
During that week, Martinez admits he also placed hidden cameras to secretly film the teen as she took a shower and changed her clothes in a bathroom at his home.
Paul alleges that was a crime because the girl didn’t know about the taping and Martinez made the video for his sexual gratification.
She’s charged him with voyeurism and possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, both felonies.
There’s more to the picture and jurors need to keep an open mind, defense attorney Mark Mestel said.
His client was a mentor to the girl, who had problems in her personal life, including bumping up against the rules imposed by her deeply religious family, the lawyer said.
Martinez installed the surveillance cameras to look for evidence the teen had been cutting herself, Mestel said.
It was a concern Martinez had discussed with his wife. They have since divorced.
The videos were copied on Martinez’s home computer so he could use software to more closely look for scars or other injuries, Mestel said.
And the former cop didn’t groom the girl, the lawyer said. Instead, she pursued Martinez, eventually becoming an “exuberant” participant in an affair that began when she was nearly 19, the lawyer said.
Martinez resigned from the Monroe Police Department in 2009, the same year he separated from his wife and moved to Texas with the girl.
Mestel said it was Martinez who called it quits in 2011, angering the girl because he could no longer afford to be her “sugar daddy.”
Paul said Martinez, despondent over the breakup of his marriage and loss of custody of his children, finally lost his ability to control the younger woman.
He wrote his ex-wife an email about how he felt “an emptiness and worthlessness I never thought possible.”
He then he showed the young woman the 2004 videos he’d made of her showering, Paul said. As he did so, he touched himself sexually and engaged the young woman in a sex act, jurors were told.
She later took the tapes to police in Texas, convinced her connection to Martinez had to end, the prosecutor said.
The case took a circuitous route to a Snohomish County courtroom.
The Washington State Patrol began investigating Martinez in March 2012 after being contacted by an FBI task force based in Texas. No charges were filed in that state.
Mestel told jurors the young woman wrote a state trooper here, somebody she knew from her family’s church. The case was soon assigned to detectives.
By the time Martinez was charged here in 2013, detectives and prosecutors believed they’d developed sufficient evidence to charge him not only with voyeurism and child pornography, but also with multiple counts of child molestation and child rape, starting as early as 2003.
On Monday, however, prosecutors filed an amended information, dismissing the molestation and rape counts.
Paul said she was limited in her ability to discuss an unfolding case. Paperwork she filed made clear that statute of limitations issues were top of mind.
The amended information for each of the remaining charges includes more detail on exactly how the allegations fit within the statute of limitations with so many years elapsed.
Mestel told jurors he expects Martinez will testify. Trial before Judge Michael Downes is expected to last two weeks with each point hotly contested.