EVERETT — She was just 10 when they first met, and in the fourth grade.
He was 45, and then a police officer who went into Monroe elementary school classrooms and taught students strategies for avoiding drugs and making other good choices.
She’d spot him driving his patrol car through the small town they both called home.
He’d sometimes stop to talk and showed an interest in her life.
Back then, she thought Carlos Alberto Martinez “was a good person, well-known and appreciated in the community.”
Now 26, the young woman on Friday told a Snohomish County Superior Court jury about the confusion, shame and guilt she came to feel after the former Monroe police sergeant began to transform their connection into something sexual.
Martinez, now 61, is accused of fixating on the girl and, over a period of years, grooming her into what deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul has described as a “very twisted relationship.” The sexualized behavior allegedly started when the girl was in her teens and continued until she was in her early 20s and living as Martinez’s girlfriend in Texas.
Defense attorney Mark Mestel has told jurors the situation is complex. Evidence will show his client was pursued by the girl and didn’t enter into a sexual relationship with her until she was nearly 19, he said. Moreover, nobody claimed anything inappropriate had occurred until 2011, after Martinez told the young woman he could no longer be her “sugar daddy,” the attorney maintains.
The young woman now has a career in government service. On the witness stand Friday, she paused often and seemed to search with care for the words that best described how she once viewed the defendant.
When she was about 13, Martinez gave her a tour of the police department. He then showed her photos of his wife and their two young children. He asked her if she’d like to be their babysitter.
She jumped at the chance.
She was lonely and didn’t have much bright in her life, she told jurors. Her parents were deeply religious and conservative. No movies. No music. No dancing. No makeup. No dating.
Martinez hired her to watch the kids and do chores around his home. When she was with him, she could listen to music, dance, watch movies and even wear makeup.
He spent time with her and told her she was beautiful.
At the time, the young woman didn’t see herself that way, she told jurors, but Martinez “complimented me on my body being slender and that I have the potential of being a fitness model.”
When the time came to learn to drive, he was there to help, demonstrating how to grip the steering wheel with relaxed arms.
On the way down Highway 522 one day, though, he touched her leg. As time went by, he began to grab her from behind by the hips and press himself against her.
She knew it wasn’t right, but told no one.
“I felt good about it,” she said.
“I trusted him,” she testified.
That continued even after the night he climbed into bed with her, groped her for a while and left, she said. She’d slept over after watching the kids late one night so Martinez and his wife could go out on a date.
“I was confused, scared,” she said, fighting back tears. “I felt a lot of guilt.”
Paul asked her to explain.
What had happened was wrong, but part of her also liked the attention, the young woman said. She’d been raised to see sexual activity outside marriage as a sin. Confession to another member of the church was the only way to set things right.
She told no one, though, because “I just didn’t have the courage.”
Paul then played a video recording made in 2004. It showed the girl, then 15, as she was taking a shower in Martinez’s Monroe home.
After working in the yard, “He would tell me I should go get squeaky clean,” she said.
Paul alleges that was a crime because the girl was unaware Martinez was recording and he 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.
The defense concedes Martinez secretly recorded the video, but maintains his motivation was to see whether the teen had been cutting herself — something she claimed to be doing in response to challenges in her life.
The young woman is expected to continue testifying Monday.