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Lawrenceville woman held for trial in death of baby son

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

By Jim McKinnon, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A Lawrenceville woman faces trial in the death of her baby son after a detective testified that she admitted punching and shaking the child.

Janice Latoya Martinez, 28, of Lawrenceville, is led from yesterday's coroner's inquest into the death of her 10-month-old baby, Santos Martinez, who died of head trauma July 4. Deputy Coroner Timothy Uhrich ordered her to stand trial for homicide. (Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette)

Santos Martinez, 10 months old, died July 4 of head trauma. After a hearing yesterday, Deputy Coroner Timothy Uhrich ordered Janice Latoya Martinez, 28, of O'Hara Place, to stand trial for homicide.

Santos was the youngest of Martinez's six children. Four others, ages 8 to 12, were removed from Martinez's custody and adopted in 2000. The fifth died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, police said.

Martinez, who shared an apartment with another woman, was arrested Friday at the Pittsburgh police investigations branch where, Detective Dennis Logan said, she gave a statement.

Martinez had been out on the night of July 3, returning home sometime after midnight. She didn't have a key and knocked repeatedly for her roommate to open the door. After several minutes, she was let in. Martinez and her roommate began arguing. As they carried on, Santos began crying, Logan testified.

To quiet the child, Martinez walked over and punched him in the head, knocking him to the floor, Logan said.

Under cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Robert Foreman, Logan testified that Martinez reported using a closed fist to strike the baby.

Martinez, seated at the defense table, shook her head and appeared to mouth the words: "He's lying."

Logan testified that Martinez's statement was tape-recorded.

Logan testified that as the argument continued, Martinez noticed that her baby was lying on the floor and had stopped breathing. To revive him, Martinez grabbed the child and began shaking him, Logan said.

Martinez said she then lost her balance and fell to the floor with the boy beneath her.

He still was unresponsive when she called 911.

On Christmas Eve 1999, Martinez gave birth to Kendre Scott. Two months later, Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families filed and then withdrew an aggravating circumstances petition. The filing was an indication that the agency planned to arrange for the child's adoption, as it had with Martinez's previous children.

Kendre died April 15, 2000, of natural causes attributed to SIDS, according to an autopsy report by the coroner's office.

After Santos' death was reported, the coroner's office reviewed Kendre's case, with no further action taken.

When Santos was born -- two years after all of the adoptions were completed -- CYF no longer had a reason to monitor Martinez and did not know of his birth.


Staff writer Barbara White Stack contributed. Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.

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