Nearly five years ago, a Chandler woman was brutally murdered inside the convenience store she and her husband owned and operated inside an east Phoenix apartment complex on the Tempe border. Her family continues to await justice. Her killer continues to await his fate.
Jesus Arturo Martinez pleaded guilty in August 2011 to first-degree murder, third-degree burglary, robbery and kidnapping in the death of Nisay Kang, a 36-year-old wife and mother of a young daughter. But he remains incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail without bond while prosecutors continue to push for the death penalty.
The next hearing for Martinez is scheduled for Wednesday in Maricopa County Superior Court, and his trial is scheduled to begin in June. The trial will be the second one in less than a year. The first one ended in a hung jury in November, an 11-1 vote in favor of the death penalty in Judge Paul McMurdie’s courtroom, requiring the case to be heard again. A unanimous vote is required for the death penalty to be enacted.
Martinez is among the 69 pending death penalty cases in Maricopa County, according to an Arizona Supreme Court’s Capital Case Oversight Committee report.
Wednesday’s hearing will be before Judge Warren Granville as McMurdie is rotating off the criminal bench to hear family court cases in the next two months.
The morning of May 25, 2007, police say Martinez forced Kang inside the store, beat her with his fists and stabbed her to death with a pair of scissors before stealing her purse with $498 of blood-stained cash and other items of evidence police confiscated from inside the apartment where Martinez lived with family members.
Martinez told Phoenix police he “was drugged up” and went into the store to “take her money.” He admitted to stabbing Kang and beating her, according to the police report.
Kang and her husband, Paul Ea, a Cambodian couple who survived the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, were fulfilling Kang’s dream of owning and running her own business. They often had allowed Martinez to take items such as energy drinks without paying for them until he had the money to do so, according to court documents.
County prosecutors plan to present aggravating factors at the sentencing hearing such as the heinous manner of the crimes, Martinez’s prior felony convictions, including marijuana possession in 2005 (a case for which he still had an outstanding warrant), and that he had planned to monetarily benefit from robbing Kang’s store, according to a county court document.
Martinez’s attorney, John Canby of the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office, could not be reached for comment and did not return telephone calls to the Tribune.
Ea told the Tribune he is not surprised that Martinez pleaded guilty and thought he was trying to avoid the death penalty, something Ea’s family supports.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he committed the crimes,” said Ea, who will speak with his daughter, Alisa, at future sentencing hearings as they did at the previous one. “I never thought the proceedings would take this long, but we’re trying to be patient to get what we want. Hopefully, this will all be resolved soon. This has been hard on all of us.”