Luz Martinez grapples for words to convey her feelings. There are no ready answers, few comforting thoughts to help her endure the loss of a son and a daughter to gun violence, but she tries to remain strong for her remaining four children.
It is hard enough for a mother to come to grips with that knock on the door in the middle of the night from police officers delivering the news that a child has been killed. Martinez has lived that horrific nightmare twice now, the most recent coming about 1:30 a.m. Monday.
She was told that her only son, 22-year-old Israel Martinez, had been shot and killed about 10:20 p.m. in the 2200 block of Gurley Avenue. Almost four years earlier, sheriff’s deputies informed Martinez her 24-year-old daughter, Valarie Martinez, and Valerie’s 1-year-old daughter, Azariah, both were found with gunshot wounds to the head at a Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir park.
“It is not easy,” Martinez said Tuesday after returning from a meeting with Waco Police Department victims’ services workers. “It is not easy at all. All of a sudden all these memories come back. I just loved my son. He was my only son.”
The 47-year-old Sanderson Farms worker said “everything” when asked about her special memories of her son and daughter.
“Everything about her. Everything about him, and my grandbaby, too,” she said. “I am just taking it day by day, knowing I have to be strong, not just for me but for my other kids. I would just say parents, tell your kids you love them every day. Hug them every day. Love them unconditionally, because you just never know.”
Martinez, who has four daughters ages 30, 13, 11 and 4 months, said her son lived with her family, including his grandmother, near the Texas State Technical College campus. He attended Connally schools and worked at Thermo Dynamic Insulation in Elm Mott.
Police have made no arrest in his death, and if they have leads or suspects, they did not share that with Martinez on Tuesday.
“They don’t have nothing,” she said. “They don’t know anything yet. No arrests have been made. All I know is he left our house around 10 p.m. and his grandmother asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘I’ll be back.’ So then, that’s when they come to my house about 1:30 to tell me Israel was deceased.”
Martinez said she does not think Israel, who had an 18-month-old son, had any friends in South Waco and said her family does not know anyone there. She speculated that her son could have been “set up” since he left the house around 10 and was found dead just 20 minutes later.
“I’m not sure. I just don’t know,” she said.
Sheriff’s office investigators arrested Christopher Paul Weiss, 30, in the November 2017 execution-style slayings of Valarie Martinez and Azariah at a park at Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir. Weiss has been jailed under $1.5 million bond for 1,414 days as of Tuesday. He has no trial date and his case, like many others, has been postponed multiple times by COVID-19 and a late round of DNA testing.
McLennan County prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against Weiss, whose trial likely will not be held now until well into next year, officials have said.
“It is a horrible tragedy when anybody loses anybody to violent crime, let alone two family members,” First Assistant District Attorney Nelson Barnes said. “When the case gets brought to us, we will pursue justice. It is a sad day for the family. It is a sad day for all of us, but we will definitely move forward and pursue them to the fullest extent of the law when we receive those cases. I’m sure the police are putting forth all efforts to find the killer, and then we will put forth all efforts after that.”
Documents filed in the 2017 case indicate Weiss had a relationship with Valarie Martinez, who gave birth to Weiss’ baby. Weiss did not want to be part of the child’s life, court records state. Martinez’s body was found outside her car at McLennan Park 3, off Willbanks Drive. Her daughter was found shot in the head in a car seat inside the car, officials said.
“Through the course of investigation, (the investigator) discovered that Weiss, who is currently married, had an affair with the victim Valarie Martinez,” according to arrest records. “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.’”