Richgrove man confessed to 30 murders as cartel drug enforcer, charged with 2 in Kern County

VISALIA, Calif. - A Richgrove man is facing nine murder charges in California after police say he confessed to at least 30 murders throughout the United States.

Jose Manuel Martinez is in custody in Alabama. He was arrested in Arizona in May 2013 on charges of murder.

Tim Ward, the Tulare County District Attorney, said six of the murders occurred in Tulare County, two happened in Kern County, and one in Santa Barbara County.

Martinez is charged with the February 15, 2007 murder of 25-year-old Jose Alvarado outside McFarland. The victim was located on a dirt access road outside of the town. He had been shot multiple times.

Also Martinez is charged with the March 23, 2009 murder of 52-year-old Juan Bautista Moreno. The victim was located in an orange grove south of Elmo Highway near McFarland. He had been shot multiple times.

Martinez is also facing allegations of lying in wait, kidnapping, and murder for financial gain. The combined charges make him eligible for the death penalty.

Martinez told investigators he is an enforcer for Mexican drug cartels, revealing a vast network of illegal drug deals and murders for hire, police said.

Already, police in Florida and California say they have confirmed Jose Martinez's alleged involvement in 13 killings after he confessed details only someone at the scene of the murders would know, Lawrence County Alabama Sheriff Gene Mitchell told ABC News.com.

Martinez has been cooperating with police, confessing to a string of crimes that spanned decades.

It wasn't a drug deal but what police say was a personal vendetta that landed Martinez, 52, in a rural Alabama jail.

He is accused of shooting Jose Ruiz in the head for insulting his daughter and then dumping Ruiz's body on the edge of the woods in Lawrence County, Ala., in March 2013.

Cops had suspected Martinez at the time of the crime, but did not have evidence to charge him and he fled to Mexico. Two weeks ago, Martinez, a U.S. citizen and Delano resident, was caught sneaking across the border from Mexico near Yuma, Ariz.

Authorities there extradited him to Alabama, where he confessed first to killing Ruiz, then to two more murders in Florida, and eventually to 30, including 11 in California alone.

"In the course of interviewing him on [the Ruiz] murder, we developed a good rapport," Mitchell said. "He felt comfortable talking to our investigator and in the course of those conversations, he mentioned he had done some other things."

Among those other things was a 2006 murder in Ocala, Fla., in which a cigarette was found at the scene with DNA that matched Martinez.

Though charged with murder, Martinez does not have an attorney and has not asked for one during a series of interviews, Mitchell said.

Instead the accused murderer seems to want to unburden himself, police said, even though he will likely face the death penalty.

"I would suppose he doesn't have a lot of folks he can talk to," Mitchell said. "Everyone needs someone to vent to and he hit it off with our investigator."

Mitchell said Martinez was "likable, but that doesn't excuse his lifestyle."


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