Clevland Plain Dearler

Man says he is afraid of jailed aunt

Friday, December 31, 1999

ELYRIA - Jose Ferrer sat in a police cruiser yesterday and cringed while explaining that he is afraid of his aunt.

He said Tammy S. Martinez, 41, of North Ridgeville, was serious when she approached him last summer about killing her husband, Ruben. Last week, Martinez approached another man - an undercover policeman posing as a hit man - and asked him to shoot her husband for $5,000 so she could collect the life insurance, police say.

Ferrer, 28, stood by officers yesterday during a bond hearing for his aunt in Elyria Municipal Court. Judge John R. Musson doubled her bond to $100,000 on a charge of complicity to commit aggravated murder.

Musson said he increased the amount after hearing reports that Martinez called witnesses and tried to influence them. In one instance, police said, Martinez told one witness, "Just keep your mouth shut."

Ruben Martinez posted a bail bond so his wife could get out of the Lorain County Jail on Monday, but she was returned to jail Wednesday when more charges were filed. She was still there late yesterday.

"She is a fine mother, even though she is involved in all this," Ruben Martinez said yesterday. The couple have a 5-year-old daughter.

"I didn't go to the hearing because I was told that it would be too hard for me," he said. "I feel terrible about this, just terrible."

He declined further comment.

Ferrer said he was glad that Musson increased Tammy Martinez's bond. He said he feared for the safety of his wife and three children when she was free on bond.

In court records, police said Martinez went to Ferrer about killing her husband, but he refused to do it. In June, however, he had agreed to help her stage a burglary for a friend so that the friend could collect insurance money, police alleged.

Ferrer broke through a sliding-glass door and took a number of items off a list, and Martinez joined him, police said.

Neither Ferrer nor Martinez's friend was charged. Martinez was charged with complicity to commit insurance fraud, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.

Martinez's attorney, Robert A. Nagy, said he disagreed with increasing her bond.

"I've seen bonds lower for people who actually killed someone," Nagy said. "Not here, of course, but it has happened."

Nagy said he met with Martinez yesterday for the first time and plans to explore several options in his defense, including entrapment and the possibility of a not-guilty plea by reason of insanity.

North Ridgeville Police Capt. Richard Thomas said police are looking into several other cases involving Martinez, a woman he described as a "longtime criminal." He said detectives are investigating whether she was involved in setting three cars on fire to collect insurance money.

Martinez has a criminal record that includes convictions for theft and misuse of a credit card, according to court records. Last month, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel O. Corrigan sentenced her stepdaughter, Claribel, to two years' probation for setting a car on fire to collect insurance money.

In a secretly tape-recorded conversation with an undercover detective, Tammy Martinez became angry when discussing the case, saying she could not understand why her stepdaughter admitted to the crime.

"Are we stupid here?" she said.

Plain Dealer librarian Patti Graziano contributed to this report.

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©1999 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.