Hunch Leads to Arrest in O.C. Double Killing

Times Staff Writer

Forensic science identified the accused killer of an elderly Santa Ana couple, but it was a detective’s hunch that led to the man’s arrest even though he’d been deported to Mexico, authorities said Monday.

Carlos Martinez, 30, was arrested Friday, one day after DNA testing identified him as a suspect in the Dec. 29 killings of Nicolas and Emilia Casas.

After discovering his identity, however, Santa Ana homicide detectives were dismayed to learn that Martinez had been deported to Mexico this year.

Then Det. Eddie Nunez got his hunch. “I figured it’s Christmas and he probably wanted to be with his family,” Nunez said. So he and other investigators put together a surveillance plan for places Martinez frequented, including his mother’s Santa Ana house.

At 6 p.m. Friday, less than 30 minutes after the surveillance began, detectives saw Martinez -- who apparently had re-entered the country illegally -- leaving his mother’s North Lowell Street home and arrested him. “It didn’t take long for us to spot him,” Nunez said Monday at a news conference.


Martinez, charged with two counts of murder during a burglary, is being held without bail. Prosecutors say they have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Nicolas Casas, 83, and his wife Emilia, 73, were stabbed several times and their home on West 9th Street ransacked. A DNA test established a strong correlation between a sample lifted from a Pepsi can at the crime scene and a sample taken from Martinez at Orange County Jail in March after a petty theft arrest. The latter sample was part of a statewide database created last year by Proposition 69, which requires DNA samples to be taken from every person convicted of a felony in California.

Martinez’s lengthy criminal record includes a felony conviction for auto theft in 1995.

On Monday, Emma Lozano, 54, thanked detectives for finding a suspect in her parents’ killing. The arrest, she said, is the couple’s “holiday gift” to their children.

They knew Christmas “was going to be unbearable this year,” Lozano said.