Accused Terrytown killer claims masked man’s threats led him to confess to murdering ex-girlfriend _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Jefferson Parish authorities arrested 29-year-old Emilio Calderon in connection with the strangling of Katherine Martinez. Martinez, 23, who was found dead last summer on the kitchen floor of her apartment, She had been stabbed three times but an autopsy found the cause of death was strangling.

Jurors heard opening statements and witness testimony Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial of Emilio Calderon, who prosecutors say stabbed and strangled a pregnant Terrytown woman last year, killing both her and her unborn child.

Prosecutors depicted Calderon, a Honduran living and working in Lafourche Parish, as a man obsessed with Katherine Martinez, a former girlfriend who had moved on and was eight months pregnant with another man’s child.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Smith told jurors that Calderon’s cellphones had well over 100 photos of her, some of which appeared to have been downloaded from Facebook before she blocked him.

Smith told jurors that he and co-counsel Sloan Abernathy intend to prove Calderon stabbed Martinez in the chest and side, slashed her back and then strangled her to death in the kitchen of her Terrytown apartment on June 7, 2014.

Four of the fingernails from her left hand were found broken off on the floor; one contained forensic material that was consistent with Calderon’s DNA profile.

Smith said investigators questioned Martinez’s boyfriend and another friend, examining their bodies for bruises and searching their homes, workplaces and vehicles, but finding nothing.

He said Martinez’s mother, who found her dead body, told investigators that Calderon had tried to communicate with her daughter through her after Martinez started blocking his calls.

Investigators interviewed Calderon in Lafourche, where he first said he hadn’t been to the West Bank in months. He claimed that he had gotten bruises on his chest from welding.

Smith said detectives will testify that Calderon’s story about the night of Martinez’s death then changed several times — saying that he had gone to the mall, then that he waited outside her apartment for 20 minutes before leaving, then that he went inside and had sex with Martinez before leaving.

Finally, he told investigators that the two had argued about money before Martinez grabbed a knife and attacked him. Calderon said he turned the knife on her and “held her by the neck until she went limp,” Smith said.

Public defender Jessica Mullaly deferred her opening statement until the defense makes its case, which could begin Thursday.

In court documents filed this summer, Mullaly indicated the defense would argue that Calderon arrived at the apartment to find a masked man standing over Martinez’s dead body and that Calderon confessed to killing her only to prevent the man from hurting his son.

Judge Adrian Adams granted a defense request to postpone the trial in July so that arrangements could be made to fly the mother of Calderon’s son to Gretna to testify that she received threatening phone calls.

Calderon, who listened to the proceedings using an interpreter, is also charged with feticide.

He faces life in prison if convicted.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder