Less than a week after President Donald Trump started a White House roundtable with remarks about the murder of Santa Maria woman Marilyn Pharis, the trial of two men accused of Pharis’s murder began in Santa Barbara County court. [KCOY]
In July 2015, Victor Martinez allegedly broke into the home of Pharis, a 64-year-old Air Force veteran and Vandenberg Air Force Base employee, while she was sleeping. Martinez is accused of raping and beating Pharis with a hammer.
Eight days later, Pharis died in the hospital from a blood clot, according to the prosecution.
The case garnered national attention because Martinez was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been arrested six times in the previous 15 months, according to the Santa Maria Police Department. Martinez was released from Santa Barbara County Jail 96 hours before he allegedly attacked Pharis.
On Monday, prosecutors in the case indicated they would argue that Martinez was Pharis’s attacker and the second defendant, Jose Villagomez, was the lookout. The case is being tried with separate juries for the two defendants.
Opening statements began Monday in Villagomez’s trial in Santa Maria Superior Court. Martinez’s jury will hear opening statements on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Ann Bramson said, during Villagomez’s conversations with police, the defendant said he did not feel bad if Pharis died because he was not the one who hurt her. Investigators found Villagomez’s DNA in Pharis’s backyard.
Villagomez’s attorney, Michael Scott, said he will prove his client has a brain deficiency that prevents him from thinking properly. The defense attorney indicated he will not dispute a murder occurred, but will argue that Villagomez was not a major participant in the killing of Pharis.