Community remembers victims of Modesto mass killing
MODESTO, Calif. (KTVU) – A crowd numbering in the hundreds gathered in a Modesto park Monday night to mourn five people murdered over the weekend, two women and three girls, one a six-month-old baby.
"She was an outstanding physician and an outstanding person," said one colleague tearfully as the crowd gathered around a table holding photos of 38-year-old Amanda Crews and her two daughters, six-year-old Elizabeth and six-month-old Rachael.
"It's just horrible, and there's just a huge hole in my heart as well as all of yours," said co-worker Carmen Mejia, who worked with Dr. Crews at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
"There wasn't a day that she would come in that she wasn't smiling no matter what was going on," recalled another Medical Center employee, wiping tears from her eyes.
But even before Saturday afternoon's killing spree, life in Crews' home had more turmoil than she might have let on.
Nine months ago, former boyfriend Martin Martinez was involved in the death of Crews' two year old son from a previous marriage, Christopher Ripley.
"Christopher sustained head injuries while Martinez was watching him alone at his residence," revealed Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll.
At the time Martinez said they were wrestling and the injury was an accident. The toddler was in a coma for two days before he died.
Investigators sought expert analysis of the autopsy and last Thursday, word came that Ripley's death was determined to be foul play by blunt force trauma.
Friends at this vigil wondered: Did Crews know those findings? Did Martinez know? Was that the trigger to the violence?
A babysitter in the crowd told KTVU that when she saw Crews on Friday, she behaved normally and mentioned that Martinez was coming over for visitation the next day.
"He just goes and visits the baby Rachael," disclosed Nadia Mahmood, who runs a home day care. "And that's once a month, a supervised visit."
Mahmood added that Martinez's own mother, 57-year-old Anna Brown Romero, was also visiting, and has a sister who lives just a few doors away. Romero was also killed, along with a five-year-old girl who was Martinez's niece.
Modesto's chief says Martinez hadn't been arrested for the previous death because the findings were verbal, not written, and very few people knew about them.
"No, the police department did not drop the ball," declared Carroll. "This is a horrible tragedy, but there was no indication leading up that this would occur."
"I had the honor to see her laugh, and I am not sure I would have remembered her laugh," recalled Crews' colleague Dr. April Gunn. She noted that Crews attended a computer training with many colleagues the morning of her death.
"Her eyes crinkled and her pony tail shook and I am so grateful that I have that memory of her now," added Gunn.
30 year old Martin Martinez remains in the Santa Clara County Jail, after fleeing to San Jose Saturday night.
At some point this week, he will be brought to Stanislaus County to face charges, old and new.