Isabel Martinez is accused of fatally stabbing four of her kids and her husband
She gives thumbs-up signs and smiles at cameras in an odd court appearance
The mother accused of fatally stabbing four of her children and their father appeared to pray, smiled and gave a thumbs-up to cameras during a bizarre court appearance Friday in Georgia.
Isabel Martinez, 33, was arrested Thursday and accused of fatally stabbing her husband, Martin Romero, and four of her children, ranging in age from 1 to 10. A fifth child also was stabbed but survived. Daughter Diana Romero, who is 9, was in serious but stable condition at a children’s hospital in Atlanta, police said.
Martinez appeared in court Friday to face five counts of murder, five counts of malice murder and six counts of aggravated assault.
Looking directly into the court camera, she repeatedly smiled and gave double thumbs-up signs. At various points, she spread her arms out wide, put her hands together as if in prayer and even left her seat to kneel on the ground.
Martinez shook her head and then wagged her finger at the camera as the judge reviewed the charges.
“Ma’am, I’m going to caution you to cut out the display for the cameras,” Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Michael Thorpe said. “It’s really not a good idea, probably not to your benefit.”
Martinez qualified for a court-appointed attorney, but she said she did not need one.
“My attorneys (are) the people that we’re fighting for,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter.
The judge said he couldn’t force her to accept counsel, but he recommended that she do so.
“My attorneys are always going to be the people and my faith. Those are my attorneys, that’s why I’m here. It doesn’t matter anything else,” she said through the interpreter.
“I’m representing the people that’s humble, that’s hardworking, the people that suffer, the people that have a lot of charges so that they understand that everything is possible through God,” she said.
As she left court, the judge muttered an audible aside: “Wasn’t that delightful?”
Martinez is being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Jail for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, authorities said.
Martinez is a Mexican national who entered the United States illegally, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in a statement Friday. She crossed the border at an unknown time and location, Cox said.
Gwinnett County police discovered a bloody scene at Martinez’s home shortly before 5 a.m. Thursday in Loganville, about 30 miles east of Atlanta.
“This is a horrendous crime, not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community,” police said. “We are hoping and praying that the remaining victim survives.”
Police said Martinez has been cooperative. They did not release a motive for the slayings.
On Friday, neighbors and community members set up a memorial featuring candles, stuffed animals and a cross outside Martinez’s home to mourn the loss of the family.
Pedro Ramirez, a neighbor, told CNN sister network HLN that Martinez used to be a positive person, but her behavior changed when her father died recently. He said she seemed depressed and stressed out.
“It’s difficult. It’s sad,” he said. “It’s just difficult to see the candles, these really good people that we used to get along with really well.”
CNN’s Sheena Jones and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.