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Trial of alleged male prostitute to begin

Ben Godar

The trial of an alleged male prostitute accused of strangling a

Burbank man and then setting fire to his apartment more than two

years ago could begin as early as Tuesday.

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Juan Carlos Martinez, a 20-year-old transient, is accused in the

Sept. 5, 2001, slaying of 62-year-old Charles Rivas of Burbank. Rivas

was found dead in the bathroom of his studio apartment in the 1000

block of North Glenoaks Boulevard, police said.

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Martinez was brought to the apartment by Rivas, and the two men

argued over money, sex and an insult about Martinez’s mother before

Martinez followed Rivas into the bathroom and strangled him, police

said. Autopsy results showed Rivas died of blunt force trauma to the

neck.

At the preliminary hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Natalie Adomian

said Martinez killed Rivas because he wasn’t paid for a sex act.

Martinez reportedly spent the night in the apartment before

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setting fire to a couch in an attempt to hide the crime. Witnesses

reported seeing a man who looked like Martinez leave the next morning

in Rivas’ car with two backpacks full of clothes and other items,

police said. He was arrested the next day walking near Broadway and

5th Street in Los Angeles, allegedly wearing Rivas’ clothes.

Because the murder was allegedly committed in part to hide a

robbery, Martinez could have faced the death penalty. But a special

circumstance committee ruled that he will face a maximum penalty of

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life in prison if convicted.

The trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Pasadena Superior

Court, but Adomian said it could be delayed by motions for up to five

days.

Adomian said the case against Martinez is strong, but declined to

discuss details so close to the start of the trial. Attorneys

representing Martinez could not be reached for comment.


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