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Martinez, Frank

(Frank Alvarado Martinez, c. 1931.00.00-    )  Proofreader for the Los Angeles Times.

Lived in Phoenix where he slept with his dead wife for 11 years

The Whataburger at 3218 E. McDowell where Frank Martinez attempted suicide in the rest room.  2-01.

On the morning of Wednesday, June 10, 1998, 67 year old Frank Alvarado Martinez entered the Whataburger fast food restaurant across the street from the trailer park where he lived since 1985. He proceeded to the restroom at the back of the restaurant and locked the door behind him.

He carried three notes in his shirt pocket. One was for a neighbor at the trailer park. Another had instructions for his burial. The third note, addressed to the Phoenix police, revealed a secret he had kept for eleven years.

Frank took out the hand gun he had carried with him into the restroom. He held the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet did not kill or even seriously injure Frank. It only creased his skull. It did succeed in having the police called to investigate the gunshot.

When the police arrived they found Frank still locked in the bathroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He was alert and talking to paramedics on the way to the hospital.

The police read the notes from Frank's pocket. The note addressed to the police explained that he had arrived home from work eleven years earlier to find his wife, Gloria, dead. The note suggested that they search his trailer. In the bedroom of the tiny trailer, police found Gloria's skeleton in bed under blankets and a pile of clothes. Her skull had a hole in it, possibly caused by a bullet.

The sign in front of the Sun Valley Trailer Park at 3323 E. McDowell Road. One of the spaces available advertised on the sign is the one where the Martinez trailer was parked before police removed it.  2-01.

The note went on to explain that Gloria had committed suicide, but that Frank was afraid to notify police because they would blame him. That was not an unreasonable fear.

Frank had shot his wife before. Arguments were common between the couple. As Frank would later tell investigators, Gloria was prone to violence, and had beaten him often during the 36 years they had been together.

On November 1, 1983, the couple's travel trailer was parked in a camping area on a California beach in western Ventura County. On this day they argued about their financial situation and from whom they should borrow money until they sold some personal property. The argument turned physical when Gloria began hitting Frank with a sheathed knife. He grabbed a rifle and threatened her with it. She then pointed a gun at him. They struggled for the gun and it went off, hitting her in the chest.

Frank immediately went for help for his 56 year old critically wounded wife. Gloria told ambulance attendants that the shooting was an accident. She told an emergency room doctor that the wound was self-inflected.

The arrow points to space 32 where the Martinez trailer was parked at the Sun Valley Trailer Park.  2-01.

Gloria was on life support for several days after the shooting. After a 10-day investigation, Ventura County Sheriff's deputies ruled the shooting "accidental," and released Frank.

At first it appeared that the investigation prompted by Frank's attempted suicide would have similar results. Investigators were initially unable to identify the 12 year old remains as that of Gloria Martinez. She had no driver's license, dental records, or credit history. If anyone noticed her disappearance, they were not concerned enough to look for her or report her missing.

Neighbors smelled something not long after Gloria's death, but the trailer was located near the park's dumpsters and Frank told them he had found a dead cat under his trailer. Frank continued to live in the tiny trailer which held his wife's decomposing body for eleven years.

Only when the roof began to leak and the trailer began to deteriorate did Frank move in with a neighbor. Perhaps it was the fear that Gloria's body would be found during the repair or disposal of the trailer that lead Frank to his suicide attempt.

On March 19, 1999, a grand jury indicted Frank on second degree murder charges. He was arrested two weeks later at a friend's home just feet away from the trailer space where Frank had lived with his wife's body.

Through his attorney, Thomas Kibler, Frank waived his right to have a trial before a jury, and have the judge in the case, Susan Bolton, render the verdict.  At the conclusion of the trial on September 27, 2000, Judge Bolton found that the state had failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  There were no witnesses.  There was no physical evidence connecting Martinez with a murder.  Frank's claim that his wife committed suicide was supported by her long history of clinical depression and lapse in taking her medicine at the time of her death.

Frank was released.  Paul Dansby, a former co-worker at the Los Angeles Times where Frank had worked for 30 years and who was living in Gilbert, offered to let Frank live with him and his wife until he could get on his feet. Dansby said that they never believed that the mild-mannered Martinez could kill his wife.

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Roadside History of Arizona (Roadside History Series) by Marshall Trimble, Joe Beeler
Arizona: A Cavalcade of History by Marshall Trimble
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