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Alabama killer extradited to California to face multiple murder charges

Jose Manuel Martinez was extradited to Tulare County this week to face murder charges.
(Tulare County district attorney’s office / Associated Press)

A man who allegedly told authorities he had been a hit man for a Mexican drug cartel has been extradited to California to face multiple counts of murder for a string of killings that plagued the Central Valley for three decades, officials said Friday.

Jose Manuel Martinez, nicknamed “El Mano Negro,” or the black hand, had been housed at an Alabama prison, where he was serving a 50-year sentence for the March 2013 shooting death of Jose Ruiz.

Authorities from the Central Valley, however, worked with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to bring Martinez, 52, to California on Wednesday to face charges for shooting, sometimes stabbing, nine men to death, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.

Some of the men’s bodies were found in ranchers’ fields and orange groves throughout the Central Valley.

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The California killings began in the 1980s in Tulare County, then moved through parts of Kern and Santa Barbara counties, ending in 2011 where it started.

Authorities say Martinez, a self-described enforcer for an unnamed Mexican drug cartel, is also a person of interest for homicides in Florida and nine other states.

In California, Martinez is charged with nine felony counts of murder and a count of attempted murder -- all which were allegedly done for financial gain.

Prosecutors also alleged Martinez was lying in wait and kidnapped some of his victims.

One of the nine men was 29-year-old Domingo Perez, who had been reported missing by his family in 1995 and was later found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in an orange grove north of Richgrove in Tulare County.

Santiago Perez, 56, of Pixley was at home with his four children when he shot to death in his bed on Feb. 14, 2000.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.


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