Defense paints Martinson as good father, says ants possibly to blame for son's death - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Defense paints Martinson as good father, says ants possibly to blame for son's death

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Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:00 pm | Updated: 11:10 am, Sun Apr 6, 2014.

Jeffrey Martinson's defense attorneys used witnesses last week to show that Martinson was a good father to his 5-year-old son, Joshua Eberle-Martinson, and that ants could have been responsible for Joshua's death in 2004.

Marilee Kay, Joshua's Sunday-school teacher at a church in Scottsdale when he was 3 years old, took the stand last Tuesday.

Kay said Joshua was a trouble maker and had a hard time getting along with other kids in the class, but that his father did help out occasionally. She also said she never met Kristin Eberle, Joshua's mother, and she never saw Joshua run away from or have any problems with his father.

After Kay, Lawrence Matthew, Martinson's first attorney, took the stand to testify that days after the death of Joshua, Matthew returned to the home, with an assistant and Martinson's father, and took photos of the scene. They also found a canister of pesticide in the garage, which they took back to their office. The same canister was shown to the jury, still containing pesticide.

On Thursday, Mary Ann Lanzilotta, the family court advisor for Martinson and Eberle near the end of 2003 up until Joshua's death, testified about her knowledge of the custody battle around the time of Joshua's death.

Lanzilotta spent 50 minutes on the stand reading a letter written to her by Martinson on Oct. 22, 2003, asking for a change in the custody plan. At the time, Joshua was spending Wednesday night with his father and every-other-weekend from Friday to Sunday. Martinson wanted Joshua to stay with him for an extra night on Thursdays.

In the letter, Martinson accused Eberle of not honoring his access to Joshua, having a double standard regarding vacation time, and leaving him out of educational and medical decisions. He cited many examples of Eberle telling Joshua to hang up during calls from his father, and calling police when Martinson showed up at Joshua's activities.

Eberle was granted many orders of protection against Martinson during the years leading up to Joshua's death, according to earlier testimony.

Lanzilotta could not confirm the complaints Martinson stated in the letter, because she was not on the case at the time the letter was written. The jury was asked to consider the letter not for factual accuracy, but only to explain Martinson's state of mind around the time of his son's death.

Court documents from Eberle's attorney found in Martinson's apartment called for supervised exchanges of Joshua, with Martinson paying for the supervisor. That request was never acted on, Lanzilotta said.

Dawn Heather Gouge, an entomologist from the University of Arizona, took the stand after Lanzilotta to address the ants that were in Martinson's apartment the night of his son's death. Gouge said she visited the apartment complex recently and discovered two types of ants.

One type was not medically significant, but Gouge said they were new and would not have been around in 2004. The second type was a Southern Fire Ant, which Gouge said could have been the cause of death in a few cases in Arizona. Gouge testified that anaphylactic shock does not usually happen on the first time someone is stung by an insect, but on the second or any following stings. It is completely unpredictable, Gouge said.

Gouge also said a sting from an ant may not leave any mark on the skin, and that the only way to know if Joshua was stung would be to do very specific testing. Earlier testimony from the medical examiner confirmed that that testing was never done on Joshua's body.

Joshua was found dead in his father's apartment after a weekend visit in August of 2004. Martinson is facing charges of first-degree murder.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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