LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A woman charged with killing four of her young children and their father smiled and flashed a double thumbs up to news cameras during her first court appearance Friday before telling a judge she doesn’t want an attorney.
Isabel Martinez, 33, appeared before Gwinnett County Magistrate Court Judge Michael Thorpe a day after police said she stabbed the five to death and seriously injured another child at her home outside Atlanta. The injured child, a 9-year-old girl, survived but remained hospitalized with injuries police described as serious.
Before the hearing began, Martinez sat with other inmates and struck poses for cameras — smiling, giving the thumbs up, putting her hands in a prayer position and spreading her arms out wide.
As Judge Thorpe listed the charges against her — five counts of malice murder, five counts of murder and six counts of aggravated assault — Martinez smiled, shook her head “no” and wagged her finger at him. The judge advised her sharply not to perform for the cameras.
When Thorpe informed her of her right to have an attorney, she said through a Spanish-language interpreter, that she doesn’t want one. She later added that her attorney will always be the people and her faith.
Thorpe advised Martinez to hire a lawyer or to allow one to be appointed for her.
“What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand,” Gwinnett County police said in a statement. “This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community.”
In cases when mothers kill intentionally, Meyer said there is often another influence, such as mental health issues, postpartum depression or the loss of a close loved one.
Victoria Nievs said Martinez had recently suffered the death of her father.
Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Michele Pihera confirmed that the 911 call came from a woman who was inside the home at 4:47 a.m. Thursday to report a stabbing. Police believe Martinez made that call.
Pihera said the caller was speaking Spanish, which initially made it difficult for 911 operators to communicate with her. The county sheriff’s office said Martinez is on a hold for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement but didn’t provide further details.
The hospitalized girl, Diana Romero, was in serious but stable condition Thursday evening, police said.
The four children killed were identified as Isabela Martinez, 10; Dacota Romero, 7; Dillan Romero, 4; and Axel Romero, 2. Their slain father was Martin Romero, 33, Pihera said.
Early indications are that a knife was used to attack the five, though a medical examiner will make the final determination about the cause of death, she said.