LAS VEGAS -- When a mother and her daughter were brutally raped and killed, and the husband-father left for dead, Las Vegas Metro homicide detectives set out to find the man responsible.
When detectives first arrived at the bloody scene, they said it was not a simple open-and-shut case. The sleeping Martinez family had been attacked with a claw hammer: mother, Yadira, 38, and daughter, Karla, 10, bludgeoned in the head with the hammer and then raped. Yadira's husband, Arturo, and father to Karla, was also severely beaten with the claw hammer.
"You have to look at all possibilities," Metro Homicide Sgt. Annette Darr said. "Could it be this? Could it be that? And we look at our detectives and say, ‘You have this background. Tell me what do you see?'"
The first and obvious suspect was the father Arturo because he was covered in blood. But detectives cleared him almost immediately because he had taken three terrible hammer blows to his skull.
"This is a great, loving father who no longer has a wife and a doting daughter," Darr said.
Darr and her fellow homicide detectives explored whether the killings were related to Arturo's business, a boxing gym. They also checked into whether the killings could be tied to a Mexican drug cartel, which have been known to commit atrocities. One by one, they considered the possibilities, and crossed them off the more they learned about the Martinez family.
Early on, detectives learned that the Martinez family, which included two young boys who were not harmed in the attack, were not involved in anything criminal.
"We knew these are good, good people," Darr said. "They are great people. These are people you want to be your neighbors. What a horrific thing to happen to very good people."
The board inside Metro's homicide office lists active investigations, nearly all of them savage crimes, but even veteran detectives said they hadn't seen anything like the brutal Martinez slayings.
The crime scene investigators had evidence to analyze, including clothes found outside and DNA from the victims. But after comparing 11 million DNA samples, they didn't have a match, and investigators were left with one likely scenario – that a stranger had beat, raped and killed Yadira and Karla Martinez, but only after incapacitating Arturo Martinez.
The killer's focus had been almost entirely on the females, the detectives said.
"It's our belief he gained entry into the house, unbeknownst to the family, without warning or provocation -- a stranger," Metro Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said. "We believe he attacked the dad first, then mom, then to that little girl."
Some of the investigators focused on evidence left at the scene, as others sought out similar crimes, he said.
An hour before the killer entered the Martinez home, a woman had been attacked a mile away and her cell phone was stolen. Phone records led police to Bryan Clay, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant and put on a show as he was taken to jail.
Later, when Darr obtained a DNA match, Clay was re-booked for the killings of Yadira and Karla Martizez.
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