The capital murder trial of a Temple man jailed almost three years ago in the shooting deaths of his 1-year-old daughter and the child’s mother likely will be held in the new year with a new judge, court officials said Friday.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court conducted a status hearing via teleconference Friday morning in Christopher Paul Weiss‘ capital murder case.
Weiss, 28, who remains jailed under $1.5 million bond, is charged with capital murder in the November 2017 deaths of Valarie Martinez, 24, and her daughter, Azariah. Both victims were shot in the head at Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir. Martinez was found outside her car, while here daughter was found in a car seat inside the car, officials said.
Strother told the parties that “unless some miracle occurs, and I haven’t seen many miracles lately,” Weiss’ trial will have to be postponed until next year. Strother will retire at the end of the year, and Thomas West won the four-person race to succeed him. The trial date has been reset multiple times.
The Supreme Court of Texas extended the COVID-19-related ban on jury trials from Sept. 1 to at least Oct. 1, and Strother, prosecutor Staci Scaman and defense attorneys Walter Reaves Jr. and Russ Hunt Jr. agreed it would be unlikely that Weiss’ trial could be held this year, even if the trial ban were lifted.
“I am not very optimistic that the trial will be held in calendar year 2020,” Strother said.
Reaves told the judge the defense needs more time because it still is waiting to receive detailed reports on DNA testing done in the case and that the efforts of their mitigation expert have been delayed because of pandemic shutdowns.
Strother set another status hearing in the case for Oct. 2. The state has said it intends to seek the death penalty against Weiss.
Documents filed in the case indicate Weiss had an affair with Martinez, who gave birth to Weiss’ baby, Azariah. Weiss did not want to be part of the child’s life, affidavits state.
“Through the course of investigation, (the investigator) discovered that Weiss, who is currently married, had an affair with the victim Valarie Martinez,” a warrant states. “When Weiss learned Martinez was pregnant, he stopped all communication with her.
“Martinez located Weiss through social media and contacted Weiss’ wife and sister and told them about the child she and Weiss had. (Investigators) learned that Weiss told his sister he did not want anything to do with Martinez or the child and stated he wanted it to ‘go away.’”
Martinez agreed to meet Weiss at Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir the night before the bodies were discovered, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara has said. Weiss was the last person seen with the young mother and baby on the night they were killed, McNamara said.
Investigators reported Weiss argued with Martinez about his responsibilities to their child before Martinez agreed to meet Weiss with her daughter.
“Weiss had been in communication with Martinez via cellphone and during an interview, (he) stated he had not been in the area where Martinez was located,” court records state. “Martinez had been in communication with a third party whom she told she was ‘hanging out’ with Weiss who she referred to as ‘bd’ or ‘baby daddy.’”
An affidavit for a search warrant for Weiss’ phone states Martinez told someone she was going to meet Azariah’s father at the lake and took her daughter with her. Detectives interviewed Weiss twice during the investigation, and he “admitted that he was with Valarie at the location where her body was found,” records indicate.