A marijuana deal gone bad fueled an escalating dispute between a Healdsburg man and the one-time business partner he is suspected of killing before burying his body deep beneath a pot patch west of town, according to Sonoma County sheriff’s officials.
New details emerged Friday about the slaying of Jose Martinez, 46, of Cloverdale, whose body detectives unearthed Wednesday from a marijuana garden off West Dry Creek Road.
Martinez, an employee of Friedman’s Home Improvement, went missing June 29 along with his white Toyota Tacoma pickup.
That’s when the sheriff’s detectives say Socorro Sierra, 34, of Healdsburg and two other men — Santa Rosa residents Felix Fernando Carreon, 43, and Climmie Smith-Hill, 30 — kidnapped Martinez outside of Ray’s Food Place, a Cloverdale grocery store, before driving him to The Geysers geothermal area, where he was shot to death in a creek drainage.
Surveillance video from the store put Martinez there that morning, but did not capture the suspected kidnapping, said Sgt. Spencer Crum of the Sheriff’s Office. That’s the last time Martinez was seen alive, he said.
All three suspects remain in custody without bail at the Sonoma County jail. Investigators say they learned through interviews with witnesses and family members that Martinez was involved in “significant marijuana dealings” and had been receiving threats from Sierra.
“There was a problem with a marijuana deal and Sierra ended up threatening Martinez over the business deal,” Crum said. “Somehow, somebody crossed somebody.”
Sheriff’s officials have not detailed the extent to which Martinez is thought to have known the three men, including Sierra, who detectives say used a handgun to carry out the slaying.
On Facebook, Martinez’s profile shows him connected with Sierra, but not to Carreon nor to Smith-Hill. Sierra was also tied to Carreon, and Carreon to Smith-Hill, but the Sheriff’s Office said it doesn’t know if the two Santa Rosa men were also part of the alleged marijuana dealings.
Attempts to reach Martinez’s family were unsuccessful Friday. His friends and relatives consoled each other on Facebook.
“I’m in shock and I’m heartbroken,” Julia Ramirez, a niece, wrote below a family photo that included Martinez.
Family members had posted flyers seeking information into his disappearance shortly after reporting him missing to Cloverdale police on July 2.
Mark Ryan said he and Martinez were co-workers about five years ago at Friedman’s as truck drivers delivering lumber to work sites and homes. The death of his former colleague didn’t add up.
“He’s really kind of unassuming and just a regular guy,” said Ryan, a Sonoma County resident, adding the two had met when Martinez was about 18 years old and worked together at a local winery. “He was a very good person and it kind of shocked me that he was involved with people like that.”
Katie Holden, the Friedman’s spokeswoman, said the company was making grief counseling available to employees at stores in light of Martinez’s death.
“We are saddened and are processing the news of his passing,” Holden said in a statement.
Cloverdale police put out a missing person alert on July 5, providing a description of Martinez and his truck. At the time, Cloverdale police said foul play was not suspected.
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