Rafael A. Martinez did nothing to deserve such an inglorious end, an Erie County Court judge said this week as he sentenced the first of three people who took part in the Buffalo man’s brutal death.
Martinez was an acquaintance of Kenneth Smith and sometimes did odd jobs for him in exchange for drugs. That brought him to Smith’s Grant Street apartment Nov. 11, 2014, at a time when Smith and two friends were on a three-day bender.
Something happened to provoke a fight, and Martinez, 57, was punched, kicked and then dragged into a bathroom where his head was pounded against the tub before he was stabbed in the throat. Terrified neighbors one floor below heard the ruckus, and witnesses across the street saw some of the attack through a window.
Martinez’s body was found the next day in an alley on Arnold Street near Smith’s West Side flat.
Smith, Juakeen Glenn, 30, and Mahalia Guest, 22, each pleaded guilty to manslaughter for their roles in Martinez’s death. Guest “was the first on the bus,” as Smith’s lawyer said Wednesday, entering her plea in March and agreeing to testify against the two men. Smith and Glenn pleaded guilty in January.
Smith was the first to be sentenced, appearing before Judge Thomas P. Franczyk on Wednesday.
Franczyk sentenced Smith to 23 years imprisonment, but before doing so, the judge asked prosecutor Gary W. Hackbush for clarification of each defendant’s culpability in the crime, since the case did not go to trial.
The assistant district attorney gave an unembellished but gruesome summation, describing how witnesses were alerted to the assault by the yelling of the three attackers, all of whom appeared to be heavily intoxicated.
“The tenants below could hear them pounding him on the bathtub, and the victim’s moaning. And there was blood coming through the floor,” Hackbush said.
When police arrived, Hackbush continued, Smith “acted nonchalant. He denied not only any involvement, but that he even resided there.”
Defense attorney Andrew C. LoTempio argued that, while Smith admitted his guilt in the crime, he also remained steadfast to a version of the killing that has him as a lesser participant.
LoTempio noted that Smith, unlike Glenn and Guest, had no record of violence.
In fact, he said, “Ms. Guest was out on bail when this happened because she had stabbed somebody else.”
He reiterated Smith’s statement that a fight started when Martinez asked to be paid for cleaning up after Smith’s puppies.
“Mr. Smith was losing the fight, and the other two jumped in,” LoTempio said.
LoTempio said that it was Guest who stabbed Martinez in the neck with a steak knife and Glenn who cut the man’s throat, saying, “I’ll show you how it’s done.”
“My client got the ball rolling,” LoTempio said, “but he didn’t finish it.”
Franczyk noted the gruesome and sadistic nature of the killing, and that the victim was “dumped like garbage,” before sentencing Smith to the 23-year term. He is scheduled to sentence Glenn on Wednesday, and Guest on Tuesday for the prior stabbing and next Thursday on the manslaughter conviction.