Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 3rd, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 18

Victor Martinez found guilty of murdering Marilyn Pharis

By Joe Payne

A Santa Maria Superior Court jury convicted Victor Martinez on June 27 of first degree murder for the July 2015 rape and death of Marilyn Pharis.

According to a press release from Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley's office, Martinez, 32, will "face life in prison without the possibility of parole as a result of being found guilty of first degree murder." There were also several special circumstances found true by the jury, including burglary, robbery, rape by foreign instrument, and use of a deadly weapon, referring to the hammer Martinez used during his attack on Pharis.

The verdict came after months of testimony from law enforcement, who presented DNA evidence and a taped confession from Martinez. Marian Medical Center staff who cared for Pharis during the eight days leading up to her death testified as well. 

Pharis was a U.S. Air Force veteran who worked as a contractor at Vandenberg Air Force Base before being attacked in her home on July 24, 2015. She fought off her attackers, Martinez and Jose Villagomez, scratching Martinez's face, which helped law enforcement find and arrest him quickly. She died after days of intensive care when a blood clot from her leg traveled to her lung.

"This case was heartbreaking for both Marilyn Pharis' loved ones and the entire Santa Maria community," Dudley said in the statement. "This extraordinary verdict is the result of the relentless hard work and professionalism on the part of the Santa Maria Police Department and prosecutors Ann Bramsen and Fabiana Fede and their team."

Martinez's co-defendant, Villagomez, pled guilty to first degree murder near the beginning of the trial. Martinez, an undocumented Mexican national who had prior assault and drug convictions, was flagged by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) for deportation, but wasn't referred to ICE for deportation after the previous charges were downgraded to misdemeanors.

Pharis' death became a national subject of debate after the attack due to Martinez's undocumented status, and because he was released by the Santa Maria Police Department weeks before the attack after he was cited for methamphetamine possession. 

Days after Pharis' death, then-Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin said that state policies reducing certain felony crimes to misdemeanors were to blame for the department not notifying ICE of Martinez's release. Martin said there was "a blood trail leading to the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis" from Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. President Donald Trump cited Pharis' story several times during his campaign, including during a speech on immigration on Aug. 31, 2016, in Arizona.

Martinez will appear in court on July 2 for sentencing, according to the DA's Office.

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