Neighbors regarded Isabel Martinez as a normal and loving mother until July 6, when the Georgia woman was accused of stabbing her four children under age 10 to death, along with their father.
However, there were recent signs her mental health was fraying, and Martinez behaved bizarrely at her first court appearance, smiling and kneeling for the cameras.
A fifth child was also wounded but has survived the deadly attack. The 33-year-old mother, whose name was spelled by some news outlets as Isabelle Martinez, is under arrest. Police posted a photo of crime scene tape next to a playground set as they investigated the grisly scene, which they described as “horrendous.”
The tragedy occurred in a mobile home in Loganville, Georgia, a town in Gwinnett County located about 30 miles from Atlanta. An immigration hold has been placed on Martinez, according to AJC.com.
Martinez appeared in court on July 7, smiling and giving a thumb’s up. In court, Martinez said, speaking through a Spanish-language interpreter, that she doesn’t want an attorney and later “added that her attorney will always be the people and her faith.”
The judge warned Martinez to stop playing to the cameras.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Five People, Including Four Children, Were Found Stabbed to Death Inside the Home
Gwinnett Police reported on Twitter: “Homicide update: All children were under age 10, adult male was in his mid 30s. Female suspect and male victim were parents to all children.”
The victims were identified by authorities as Axel Romero, 2; Dillan Romero, 4; Dacota Romero, 7, Isabela Martinez, 10, and their father, Martin Romero, 33.
Diana Romero, 9, was wounded but survived the carnage.
A GoFundMe site has been established to help the family. It says, “My name is Hallie Romero and I am a member of the family. Our family has suffered the tragic loss of five members of our immediate family. The burden of funeral costs is a lot for our family, and any help would be greatly appreciated. The sole survivor of this tragic event, Diana who is pictured above, is still in the hospital and expected to stay there for another 2-3 weeks to recover from her injuries. Your donations would cover any medical costs incurred from the hospital as well as the funeral costs for the five deceased. God Bless, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for any and all help.”
“What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand. This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community. We are hoping and praying that the remaining victim survives his/her injuries and makes a full recovery,” Gwinnett Co. Public Information Officer, Corp. Michele Pihera, said.
2. Isabel Martinez Was Described as a ‘Regular Mother’ by a Neighbor
Before the unthinkable occurred, neighbors had a positive impression of Martinez.
“She seemed so normal, like regular mother,” said neighbor Letty Perez to WSBT-TV. “She was good, went to our church last weekend, she was there with us.”
The neighbor added to the TV station: “Yes she was a good mother, definitely a good mother.”
Police revealed that they were not searching for any additional suspects. They said the mother was their “prime suspect.”
According to police, the mother now faces five charges of malice murder as well as aggravated assault charges.
A 911 call was placed alerting police to the slaughter just before 5 a.m. on July 6. It’s believed that Isabel Martinez made that call. She spoke in Spanish during its duration.
The father was described as being in his mid 30s, and the motive was still under investigation.
3. A Neighbor Recalled the Children Riding Bikes in the Neighborhood
Pedro Ramirez, 15, described seeing the children riding bicycles throughout the neighborhood. He also said the victims might have been dead for hours.
In an interview with AJC, he said the children would frequently come out to play on the street and in the park. Ramirez added that the family had only recently moved into the home and he said the children ranged in age from 3-years-old to 10.
Jim Hollandsworth told AJC.com that the children were in an after school program he runs, and added, “Everyone is in complete shock. The last few weeks our staff has gotten to know these kids very well.” He described the children as “great, happy, participating in our programs… they just jumped right in.”
4. The Mother Was Depressed After Her Father’s Death & Grew ‘Meaner,’ a Neighbor Said
The main sign that something was wrong to neighbors: Reports that the mother was depressed recently.
The neighbor, Ramirez, told AJC.com that the mother had been depressed because her father died three weeks ago. Prayers were said in church to help her. To 11Alive, he said, that the family held barbecues and Martinez seemed like “a happy person” but recently became “a lot meaner” and “kept saying she kept seeing things.”
Reporter Liz Artz wrote on Twitter, “Neighbor: suspect mom was depressed about father dying. They prayed about it in church last Sun., but no indication she wld kill her children.”
5. The Mother Was Originally From Mexico & Was New to the Georgia Area
The family had recently arrived in the Georgia community from Illinois, and Martinez was originally from Mexico, according to local news reports.
According to Artz, “Neighbors: suspect originally from Mexico Possibly moved here from Chicago area several months ago. 5 children all under the age of 12yoa.”
She added, “Neighbors: kids are ‘babies’ youngest ‘toddler oldest about 7yoa’ said they moved here from ILL about a month ago.”
AJC.com reported that the mother has extended kin in the area.