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Morgan Hill
English English Spanish Spanish
September 27, 2021

Murder Suspect Seeks Freedom

The man accused of brutally killing a Gilroy father has asked a
judge if he could be freed, despite the $1 million bail set for his
release.
Gilroy – The man accused of brutally killing a Gilroy father has asked a judge if he could be freed, despite the $1 million bail set for his release.

Tomas Romero Martinez, 21, was arrested May 16 for the murder of Juan Lugo, a 56-year-old man well-known to Gilroy’s downtown merchants, who often saw him riding his bicycle down Monterey Street. Lugo was found stabbed to death in the alley behind La Colonia Latina, 7261 Monterey St., just before 1am Sunday, April 29. Martinez was arrested after coming to the police station for a voluntary interview; police and the district attorney have declined to specify whether he confessed to the crime.

Martinez faces an immigration hold in addition to the murder charge. At his last hearing, his bail was set at $1 million. During his plea hearing Friday, Martinez conferred at length in Spanish with public defender Javier Rios, and asked him to relay his request to Superior Court Judge Teresa Guerrero-Daley.

“He said he’d like to be released today,” said Rios. “Would the court grant such a motion?”

“Absolutely not,” Guerrero-Daley said.

The bizarre case has proven tricky to investigate, Detective Stan Devlin said. Police received no calls of screaming or fighting in the alley before Lugo’s body was found, which suggests that Lugo was acquainted with his attacker, Devlin said. Police have declined to say whether Martinez knew Lugo, or how. Thus far, Devlin said he found no prior criminal history for Martinez, though the detective is still speaking to authorities in Arizona, where Martinez previously lived. The case is not gang-related, nor was Lugo robbed, nor were drugs found on his body or in his system, Devlin said.

Martinez’ name rang oddly familiar to Nick Franco, cashier at Franco’s Imports on Old Gilroy Street. When the 21-year-old’s photo appeared in the paper after his arrest, Franco remembered him: the skinny Gilroy teen who cashed a fake check for $350 at the Franco family’s store in September 2005. He’d also seen him riding a tractor, at work at nearby B & T Farms, Franco said. Paul Mirassou of B & T Farms could not be reached Friday to confirm whether Martinez had worked there.

“I was shocked,” Franco said. “This kid?”

Though the family reviewed security videos to determine that Martinez was at fault, the Francos never took the case to the police. Nick Franco said they knew his uncle, their neighbor Enrique Romero, and that Romero said the then-19-year-old boy was troubled, and had moved south to Arizona. When he returned, Romero said, he would make his nephew reimburse the Francos. He never did, Franco said.

Martinez agreed Friday to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days of his arraignment. His plea was deferred to 9am June 22.

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