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Second jury convicts man in murder case

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


TAMPA -- Last year, a jury deadlocked 10-2 after deliberating 41/2 hours on whether to find William Montez guilty of the first-degree murder of Maria Elaina Martinez, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

On Wednesday, a different jury took 90 minutes to agree that Montez committed first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Prosecutor Shirley Williams told essentially the same story at both trials.

A passing motorist found Martinez's nude body at 3 a.m. on Dec. 30, 1998, in the middle of N 17th Street near Bougainvillea Avenue. She appeared to have been strangled with a black stocking, which left a deep indentation on her neck. She had cheap handcuffs on her wrists.

Williams said Montez, 38, dumped the body out of Martinez's Trans Am after killing her at the mobile home on Linebaugh Road they had shared for a few months. Investigators found a mixture of Montez's and Martinez's blood on the mattress and pillows and under Martinez's fingernails.

Neighbors heard the couple arguing the night of the killing, Williams said. Montez also changed his story several times while talking with investigators.

In his closing argument, Montez's lawyer, assistant public defender Gerod Hooper, called the investigation "substandard" and "half-baked." He said any "sick psychopath" could have killed Martinez, who worked as a prostitute.

"The perfect crime is when someone else gets blamed for it," he said.

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