Attorneys for a man accused of strangling his pregnant girlfriend to death in her Terrytown apartment last year will argue that he arrived there to find a masked man standing over her dead body and that he confessed to killing her only to prevent the man from hurting his son.
Emilio Calderon, who was set to stand trial in Gretna this week on charges of second-degree murder and feticide, was granted a continuance so his public defenders can arrange for the mother of his son to come from Honduras to testify about threatening calls she says she received.
The continuance was granted over the objections of prosecutors, who argued that anonymous threats constitute hearsay and are inadmissible, and that Calderon’s lawyers haven’t shown there is a reasonable expectation the woman will be able to get a passport and the money to come here anyway.
The trial is now scheduled to start Sept. 21 in 24th Judicial District Judge Adrian Adams’ court.
Calderon, a Honduran working in Lafourche Parish at the time, was arrested by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office days after the June 7, 2014, discovery of Katherine Martinez’s body. Her mother had kicked in the door and found her daughter’s body, strangled with three stab wounds.
The coroner ruled the cause of death was strangulation and that the unborn child was not stabbed during the attack but was unable to survive after Martinez died.
Investigators said Calderon, 30, apparently had stalked Martinez. They said he confessed to the crime and to being angry that Martinez was carrying another man’s child.
Prosecutors say Calderon’s DNA was found under Martinez’s fingernails and that a cell tower picked up his cellphone within a mile of her house when she was killed.
Calderon’s defense, however, argued in court documents filed Monday, is that Calderon had gone by the apartment, met with Martinez, had sex with her and left, only to return shortly afterward in hope of catching her with another man.
Instead, attorney Jessica Mullaly wrote, Calderon found her dead body and a man in a mask who told him he knew that Calderon had a son in Honduras and that the son would be hurt if Calderon didn’t tell the police he committed the murder.
“Each time the police confronted Mr. Calderon with a detail of the offense, he admitted to the detail,” Mullaly wrote. “After four different statements, Mr. Calderon admitted to strangling the victim.”
She said Calderon “did not tell the interrogating officers of the existence of the other man at the victim’s apartment out of fear for the safety of his son and his son’s mother.”
Calderon’s lawyers maintain they did not get a phone number to contact the mother of Calderon’s son until last week, though she told them she had answered three calls from a private number in the months after Calderon was arrested and heard a man threaten her son.
“(The child’s mother) will testify that she received threatening phone calls so believable that she was terrified for her and her son’s safety,” Mullaly wrote, adding that the testimony “is critical to defense’s theory of the case.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Smith, however, argued that testimony of alleged threats made over the phone by an unknown party “constitutes rank hearsay that is clearly inadmissible.”
Allowing the testimony would open a Pandora’s box where every criminal defendant could call in relatives to testify to hearsay statements made by the purported “real offender,” Smith wrote.
Arguing unsuccessfully against the continuance, Smith said Calderon’s defense didn’t meet its obligation to demonstrate it had tried hard enough earlier to find the woman’s number or that the court could reasonably expect her to make it to Louisiana for the trial.
Calderon’s attorneys have also said that in January, Martinez’s mother got a text from a Honduran number from someone claiming to have had an intimate relationship with the victim and saying he was sorry “for hurting the victim and causing pain to the victim’s mother.”
The DA’s Office called these communications hearsay as well. Adams is scheduled to hear motions on that matter in August.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.