Closing arguments begin in Marilyn Pharis murder trial

Posted at 10:14 AM, Jun 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-25 13:25:45-04

Closing arguments began Monday morning in the trial for Victor Martinez, one of the men charged with the rape and murder of Marilyn Pharis.

The Santa Maria woman was beaten and attacked in her home in 2015 and later died from her injuries.

Jurors were initially going to decide the fate of both men arrested in connection with Pharis’s death, but shortly after opening statements began on May 21, Jose Villagomez changed his plea to guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19.

Prosecutors say Martinez, who has pleaded not guilty, had been arrested by Santa Maria police six times in the previous year-and-a-half and was also in the country illegally.

Police interviewed Martinez for hours after his arrest. Early on in the trial, the prosecution said his story changed from claiming no involvement in breaking into the house and beating Pharis to admitting to police that he hit her with a hammer, tried to strangle her and touched her inappropriately. 

When asked why he beat Pharis, prosecutors say Martinez responded, "She saw me and I didn’t want problems with the police."
Defense Attorney Lori Pedego said Martinez only made those statements to make police happy because he was fearful of the police.

Pedego has not disputed that Martinez choked Pharis or entered the house unlawfully, but said no DNA evidence was found on Pharis’s private parts.   

If convicted, the DA’s Office has said they will seek life behind bars without the possibility of parole for Martinez. 

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