FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – A man who admitted to killing dozens of people across the United States as an enforcer for drug cartels in Mexico will begin to hear evidence in court Tuesday that prosecutors say proves he gunned down nine people in Central California.
Authorities say José Manuel Martínez opened up to them after his arrest in 2013, detailing a long, violent career with over 30 victims.
Martínez has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which make him eligible for a death sentence if he is convicted. Attorneys in the Tulare County Public Defender's Office did not respond to requests for comment Monday on Martínez's behalf.
In California, he is accused of killing people in Tulare, Kern and Santa Barbara counties between 1980 and 2011. The victims ranged in age from 22 to 56, authorities say.
Investigators say that in 1980, Martínez shot a man who was driving to work with three others in the vehicle. Martínez is accused of shooting another man in bed early one morning in 2000 while the man's four children were home.
Martínez, 53, had lived at times in Richgrove, a small farming community in Central California about 40 miles north of Bakersfield. He was arrested shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into Arizona.
Authorities first took Martínez to answer charges in Alabama, where they say he began to talk.
"After he confessed to it, it was just like opening up the floodgate," Tim McWhorter of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office in Alabama said at the time.
Prosecutors have said they believed him because he gave details that nobody else would have known. McWhorter said Martínez stopped short of naming his cartel associates.
In Alabama, Martínez pleaded guilty and accepted a 50-year prison sentence last year for shooting a man to death for making derogatory remarks about Martínez's daughter.
Prosecutors in California have made public few details about evidence they have linking Martínez to the nine killings. Stuart Anderson, a spokesman for the Tulare County District Attorney's Office, declined to comment ahead of Martínez's preliminary hearing.
At the hearing's end, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to order Martínez to stand trial.
Martínez also awaits two murder charges in Florida.