Death penalty sought in mini-mart murder case

Paul Ea, left, speaks of his wife, Nisay Kang, who was slain in 2007 while working at the mini-mart in Phoenix while his daughter Alisa Ea, 8, looks on. The mini-mart was located in the Peaks at Papago Park apartment complex in Phoenix near the Tempe border.

Tribune file

For the last five months, the life of Chandler resident Paul Ea has been dramatically different than the life he led as a happily married man.

After he gets up in the morning to go to his technician's job at General Dynamics in Scottsdale, it is he who now sees their daughter, Alisa, 9, off to school. It is no longer necessary for Ea to go the mini-mart convenience store inside an east Phoenix apartment complex to help his wife, Nisay Kang, stock the shelves and run the store the couple owned for a short time this year.

Last May, Nisay Kang, 36, was beaten and stabbed to death at that store.

Ea, 37, also said he sometimes has trouble sleeping at night. He has put off a job promotion offer as he prepares to follow the trial of an unemployed 20-year-old man accused of murdering Kang the morning of May 25 at the complex at 815 N. 52nd St.

Jesus Arturo Martinez, a former resident of the complex whom the couple knew and often gave merchandise to when he couldn't pay, is accused of killing Kang. He has pleaded innocent to first-degree murder, third-degree burglary, robbery and kidnapping.

Maricopa County prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty for Martinez. Both defense and prosecuting attorneys are due to submit a joint report on the case to Judge Silvia Arellano on Oct. 31. A hearing on the report, which involves a proposed trial date required to be scheduled before Dec. 11, will be held before the judge on Nov. 2.

"I want to see Jesus Martinez get the death penalty," Ea said. "That (expletive). He didn't have to do what he did. He could have taken her purse without killing her, that wouldn't have mattered."


County prosecutors plan to show aggravating factors in the case such as the heinous manner of the crimes, Martinez's prior felony convictions including marijuana possession in 2005, and that he had planned to monetarily benefit from robbing Kang's store, according to a county court document.

Martinez told Phoenix police he "was drugged up" and went into the store to "take her money," according to a Phoenix police report. Martinez admitted to stabbing Kang with a pair of scissors after beating her with his fists inside the mini-mart at the 768-unit complex near the Scottsdale-Tempe border as Kang was preparing to open the store, according to the Phoenix police report.

Kang died of sharp and blunt force trauma to the head and neck, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

"I saw the wall where he smashed her head," Ea said. "I never hit anyone that hard in my life."

When police executed a search warrant inside the apartment where Martinez was staying with friends at the complex, they found Kang's purse and a pair of bloody scissors inside of it, according to the police report.

Police also seized Martinez's blood-stained clothes and $498 in blood-stained currency that included one $100 bill, four $50 bills, eight $20 bills, one $5 bill and 33 $1 bills, the report said.


John Canby, a Maricopa County legal defender representing Martinez, told the Tribune that Martinez is not denying the accusations against him.

However, Canby said that by being a capital case, its trial likely will not begin until December 2008 because of the backlog of capital cases in the county court system.

Currently 132 death-penalty cases are pending in the Maricopa County Superior Court to date, according to court records.

County prosecutors have not made a plea offer to Martinez, according to Canby.

"My client was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the incident, but he realizes that's not any excuse for what he did," Canby said.

"He's taking full responsibility for what happened, and we think that can be done without the death penalty."

A witness told police he saw Martinez hurriedly leaving the gated swimming pool area behind the store that morning, carrying a purse, and when Martinez saw the man, he slowed down and waved to him, the report read.

Moments later, the witness found Kang's body inside the store after a woman trying to get inside alerted him that something might be wrong because candy racks were blocking its doors, according to the report.

Martinez was indicted on the charges by a county grand jury in June. He is being held in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail without bond.


Ea and Kang, who were married for 11 years, had emigrated to the United States from Battambang, Cambodia, the second largest city in that country. Paul Ea's and Nisay Kang's fathers both died during the violent Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, and the couple was seeking a better life. Kang was fulfilling her dream of running her own business so they could be better off in their golden years. Since his wife's death, Ea has sold the store and it was re-opened early last month.

"I just wanted to get rid of it," Ea said. "I sold it for about half of what we paid for it. She was so happy to be there and loved to talk to all the customers."

Ea recently returned from a trip to Cambodia with Alisa and Nisay's mother where about 300 family members and friends honored Kang with a Sept. 1 ceremony marking 100 days since her death. The Buddhist ceremony is held so the departed person's spirit can move on. Gifts of food, money and clothing were donated so Nisay can have a reward in death, Ea said.

"That was what hurt me the most," Ea said of the ceremony and returning to Cambodia where his family vacationed last year. "It is time for her spirit to move on. Before that, I always felt that she was around me. It was hard to face Nisay's family. They had a lot of questions about her death. I lost 10 pounds the first week I was there. The trip started out bad, but it got better."

Ea said Alisa, a fourth grader, is getting all Bs in school, and receiving some counseling to help her deal with the grief of her mother being gone.

"She misses her mom, and it shows up from time to time," Ea said. "I think of Nisay every day. I loved her very much and will never forget her."

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