This week a Santa Barbara County jury found Victor Martinez, an illegal alien who had been previously convicted of sexual assault, guilty of first degree murder in the brutal 2015 sexual assault, torture, and murder of 64-year-old Air Force Veteran Marilyn Pharis.
Though Pharis was murdered just weeks after Kate Steinle was shot and killed on a pier in San Francisco, and sanctuary policies also directly led to her murder, Pharis’s case has never attracted the publicity Steinle’s case did – and that’s a shame.
The only reason the country heard about Kate Steinle’s case was because the media couldn’t ignore it. Steinle was murdered in broad daylight, in a big city, on a busy pier filled with tourists. San Francisco authorities couldn’t hide or downplay her murder. And, because we still have access to public records in our country, they couldn’t hide her killer’s history.
Marilyn Pharis was murdered under different, easier-to-ignore circumstances. She lived in a sleepy, conservative, agricultural town, and was raped and beaten in her own bedroom. There were just a handful of national media stories at the time she was killed, mostly in relation to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or “move along, nothing to see here, this has absolutely nothing to do with illegal immigration” opinion pieces (including an incredibly misleading piece by a CNN “National Security Expert”).
Make no mistake, Marilyn Pharis’s death has everything to do with illegal immigration and California’s immoral, despicable, and fatal sanctuary policies.
Marilyn’s killer is an illegal alien who had been arrested six times in the 15 months prior to that tragic day in 2015, and was in the United States at the time of the murder courtesy of Santa Barbara County’s sanctuary policies and California’s TRUST Act.
One of Victor Martinez’s arrests was in May 2014, at which time he was charged with felony sexual assault. A detainer was filed by ICE, but was not honored:
“[In 2014 he was charged with felony assault with intent to commit a sexual assault] but his case was downgraded to a misdemeanor. Santa Barbara custody officials concluded that keeping Ramirez [Martinez] would violate the state’s TRUST Act, which allows local law enforcement to hold inmates for immigration authorities only if they have been charged with a serious crime.
“The county, like hundreds of other jurisdictions across the country, had also determined that it could no longer honor immigration agency requests to hold inmates beyond their jail terms without a federal warrant or court order because of a court ruling in a 2014 Oregon case.”
But ICE didn’t necessarily want Martinez held. They had also asked to be notified about his release date. Nothing in Santa Barbara County’s written policy in effect at the time or in the California TRUST Act prevented custody officials from legally notifying ICE that Martinez was about to be released.
In testimony before Congress, then-Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin said:
“The arrest sheet on Martinez is a glaring example of federal and state failures….On July 16, 2015, eight days before assaulting Ms. Pharis, Martinez was arrested for felony possession of a dirk or dagger, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia. He was additionally charged with two misdemeanors, two $10,000 warrants, failure to appear, and violation of probation. There was no ICE detainer submitted during this detention. Four days later in court, the weapon charge was dismissed, a ‘No Contest’ plea entered for drug paraphernalia, and he was released that day. Four days later, he assaulted Ms. Pharis.”
The failure is even greater than Chief Martin describes. Santa Barbara County officials issued a press release and detailed timeline of their interactions with Martinez in August 2015 in response to media reports. Martinez was arrested May 22, 2014 and charged with two felonies – felony assault with the intent to commit a sexual assault, and felony possession of a controlled substance. (The sexual assault charge exposed Martinez to a minimum prison term of two years, which is a big deal in immigration law.)
The next day, May 23, DHS sent the Sheriff’s office a Form I-247, Immigration Detainer. On May 27, Martinez’s felony assault charge was dropped to misdemeanor battery. When county custody officials evaluated DHS’s detainer May 30, they determined that a policy change TWO DAYS earlier meant they didn’t have to recognize the detainer request.
“Upon the advice of Santa Barbara County Counsel, effective May 28th, 2014, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office changed its policies and procedures to conform to the Clackamas ruling. Specifically the Sheriff’s Office no longer recognized DHS/ICE detainer requests (DHS Form I-247), and requires that immigration holds will only be accepted if in the form of a court order, or warrant issued by a Federal magistrate.”The DHS/ICE detainer for Victor Aureliano Martinez was not a valid court order or warrant signed by a Federal magistrate.”
County custody officials then determined that because Martinez was now charged with a misdemeanor, had no felony convictions on his record, and was no longer charged with a felony, they couldn’t hold him “solely on the DHS/ICE detainer request,” which apparently they don’t recognize anyway. The onus was now on DHS – only DHS wasn’t aware of this.
“DHS/ICE did not…provide the Sheriff’s Office with a court order or warrant signed by a Federal magistrate or judge.“DHS/ICE did not provide the Sheriff’s Office with information establishing that Victor Aureliano Martinez had been previously convicted of a Federal crime meeting the requirements of an “aggravated felony”, nor that Federal authorities possessed a felony arrest warrant for Victor Aureliano Martinez. Reference California Government Code section 7282.5(a)(5)”
Martinez then posted bond late on the evening of July 3, 2014, and was released hours later, on the 4th.
So, the county downgraded the charges and changed its policies after receiving DHS’s detainer request, but decided the newer policy was the one they’d follow and didn’t bother letting DHS/ICE know they’d need to present a court order or warrant signed by a Federal magistrate or judge. Oh, and a phone call to ICE saying, “Hey, your boy’s about to bond out if you wanna hang out across the street and nab him” would have been too much to ask.
Martinez didn’t show up for his court date on the 2o14 charges, and ended up back at the jail on July 20, 2015, on a possession of meth charge. He entered a no contest plea to those charges and the 2014 charges and was sentenced to three years of possession and a 30-day stint in the county jail – starting October 30, 2015. He was to reappear in court on August 24, 2015.
In the early morning hours of July 24, 2015, Marilyn Pharis returned home from her shift as a civilian satellite tracker at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base and went to sleep. She woke to find Martinez on top of her. In the words of Chief Martin (emphasis added):
“[Martinez] sexually assaulted her, strangled her, and beat her about her head and face with a hammer. But despite the incredible beating, Marilyn would not give up. She fought back with all the strength she could muster, even while receiving repeated blows. The suspects left her for dead. But somehow, with her eye socket shattered and a broken neck bone, she called 9-1-1.”
During Victor Martinez’s murder trial, medical professionals tearfully described their interactions with Pharis during the eight days she spent in the hospital before succumbing to her injuries.
“Dr. Matthew Cote stat[ed] on the stand that he immediately noted large amounts of blood coming out of her nose, mouth and ears when he saw her, and feared that the swelling of her throat could close her airways and ultimately kill her.”
“A nurse who treated Marilyn Pharis, the Santa Maria woman who was allegedly murdered by an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal record, cried in court Tuesday and shouted that she knew the victim had been raped.”
“When [Dr. Katie] Julian first met Pharis on July 26…Pharis was “very stoic,” and “had tears running down her face, and was pretty traumatized.”
Marilyn Pharis dedicated her life to serving this country, but in the end her country failed her. As Chief Martin said, “From Washington, D.C., to Sacramento there’s a blood trail leading to the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis.”