Arizona Man Convicted of First-Degree Murder in Starvation Death of 6-Year-Old Son

Arizona Man Convicted of First-Degree Murder in Starvation Death of 6-Year-Old Son
Anthony Martinez watches as the jury members leave the courtroom, in Flagstaff, Ariz., on May 23, 2024. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—A northern Arizona man was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and other crimes in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

Authorities say the boy, Deshaun Martinez, was locked in a tiny bedroom closet for 16 hours a day over a month with his older brother as punishment for stealing food in the home at night while their parents slept.

A Coconino County Superior Court jury found 28-year-old Anthony Martinez guilty in the boy’s death. Mr. Martinez also was convicted of two counts each of child abuse, kidnapping, and aggravated assault on law enforcement officers. Sentencing is set for June 28.

An autopsy showed the boy weighed just 18 pounds (8.1 kilograms) when he died—well below average for his age. The manner of death was listed as a homicide.

The conviction Thursday was the second in the case. The boy’s mother, Elizabeth Archibeque, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse and was sentenced in July 2023 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Joseph Carver told jurors in closing arguments this week that Ms. Archibeque dominated the couple’s relationship and Mr. Martinez never displayed any independent decision-making when it came to parenting their children, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

But prosecutor Michael Tunink said all the evidence in the case pointed to Mr. Martinez creating and perpetuating the condition the boys were in, the newspaper reported.

Flagstaff police reported finding the 6-year-old unresponsive after his paternal grandmother—Ann Martinez—called 911 on March 2, 2020, and said it appeared the younger grandson was dead.

Ann Martinez has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including child abuse tied to disciplining the boys by allegedly hitting them with a coat hanger. Her trial is scheduled for August.

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Wanda Ahasteen stops by a memorial for a 6-year-old Deshaun Martinez in Flagstaff, Ariz., in this March 4, 2020, file photo. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

Ms. Archibeque and Mr. Martinez initially attributed their sons’ malnourished state to a medical condition and to ingesting diet or caffeine pills for several weeks.

Mr. Martinez told authorities that the boys only had oatmeal and bread for breakfast and lunch, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. Mr. Martinez also admitted to sitting next to the closet while playing video games to ensure the boys didn’t get out, the newspaper reported.

Police said Deshaun and his then 7-year-old brother were kept in the closet from 8 p.m. to noon daily for a month with limited food and were kept from attending school.

According to authorities, the closet was lined with an orange plastic sheet that reeked of urine.

The older boy survived but weighed just 28 pounds (12.7 kilograms) when police found him. He was taken to a hospital, where he recovered after nearly three weeks of treatment.

Police said the couple’s other two children—girls who were ages 2 and 4 in 2020—were found to be healthy and weight proportionate and they didn’t have any restrictions at home.

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