PHOENIX – Danny Ledezma Martinez (D.O.B. 10/16/1979) will spend the rest of his natural life in prison for fatally shooting Phoenix Police Officer Travis Murphy in 2010. In the sentence imposed today by the Honorable Teresa Sanders, Martinez was also ordered to serve an additional consecutive term totaling 65.75 years for multiple other offenses related to the incident. Prosecutors originally sought a death sentence for Martinez, but this option was eliminated after the court precluded a retrial on one of two counts of first degree murder during the penalty phase of the trial.
“This was a senseless crime that claimed the life of a uniformed law enforcement officer acting in the line of duty. We will never be able to thank Officer Murphy’s family enough for their shared sacrifice,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “While we believe the aggravating factors proven in this case called for the most severe punishment provided under Arizona law, we accept the court’s ruling and the jury’s findings as a just result,” he added.
On May 26, 2010, Phoenix Police Officers spotted a dark colored Ford Mustang driving erratically in the area of Indian School and Black Canyon Freeway. When officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop, the vehicle drove away at high speed and was lost in the nearby neighborhood. Minutes later, a witness called 911 to report that a male subject had parked a vehicle in the carport of a vacant house. The witness stated the subject attempted to cover up the car and ran from the carport. At approximately the same time, a second witness called to report that a dark colored Mustang had collided into the rear of his vehicle on the 1900 block of W. Fairmount Avenue and then parked in the carport of a nearby residence.
Officers Jillian Mahlmeister and Travis Murphy responded to the call and located the Mustang. Officer Mahlmeister walked into the backyard of the vacant home looking for the suspect. She heard multiple gunshots and ran back to the front of the residence where she found Officer Murphy down on the sidewalk with multiple gunshot wounds to his waist and legs. He was rushed the hospital where he later died as a result of his injuries. After a search of the neighborhood, police located Danny Martinez hiding inside a shed in the backyard of a nearby residence. They also found an AR15 assault rifle in a shed located at a house next door to the one where Martinez was found.
Investigators determined that Martinez had crossed over at least two fenced backyards and hid behind a garbage dumpster where he fired at Officer Murphy after he was ordered to drop his weapon. A civilian witness heard Officer Murphy giving commands just prior to shots being fired. Shell casings from 12 .223 caliber rounds were recovered from the scene and matched to the assault rifle by ballistics testing. The defendant’s fingerprints and DNA were found on the rifle and his fingerprints were found on the Mustang which was registered to his father. Investigators also located two .40 caliber casings near where Officer Murphy fell, indicating that he had fired at the suspect.
On February 9, 2011, a Maricopa County Grand Jury indicted Martinez on one count of first degree murder of a law enforcement officer and one count of first degree premeditated murder, or in the alternative, murder committed in the furtherance of another felony offense. He was also charged with three counts of burglary, and one count each of trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The State filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty, alleging as aggravating factors the defendant’s previous felony convictions; the especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner in which the offense was committed; and the fact that the victim was an on-duty peace officer.
On July 15, 2015, a trial jury found Martinez guilty on all counts. In the subsequent penalty phase of the trial, the jury returned a verdict of life imprisonment for the premeditated/felony murder count but was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of murdering a law enforcement officer. The State sought to retry the penalty phase on that count but the court ruled the two counts represented a single offense against the same victim and could only result in one sentence.