By Christian Cipollini for Gangsters Inc.
Early in 2018, I was contacted by a colleague on behalf of an incarcerated man by the name of José Manuel Martinez. My colleague explained that Mr. Martinez, a convicted killer, was interested in telling his story, and wanted to speak to me regarding this possibility. Over the course of several months, with exchanges of letters, phone calls, and “video visit” calls with José, I grew more and more interested in the idea. Full disclosure: I found him fascinating.
No, not in a “fanboy” pen pal way, but we do greet one another as “amigo.” Martinez has never tried to convince me his life was that of a victim, and not once has he asked me to approve of his criminal past. Though he’s fully embraced the fact that he has to pay for his crimes, he’s very much self-aware—that he’d do it all again if given the chance.
“Monster” that is “going to hell”
Martinez once told me he was indeed a “monster” and surely “going to hell.” But on the flip side, he’s also a very committed family man, a grandfatherly type, if you didn’t know him any other way.
Over the last two years, Martinez provided me with several hundred meticulously detailed and annotated pages of handwritten memoirs, along with crime-scene photos and personal photographs, plus copies of police and coroner reports. I have observed, in the obvious and the subtle moments alike, elements of both his good side and its evil twin. A braggadocio, no doubt, as well as one who demonstrates little, if any, remorse. And yet he’s a dichotomy, a man with no apologies, who has, in brief moments, expressed slivers of sympathy for the families of his victims. Not that it offers much consolation to those grieving.
Alabama confessions of a sicario
José Martinez is a name that began making headlines in 2013 after giving Alabama authorities a shocking confession that he’d not only committed the murder for which they were inquiring, but also carried out more than thirty murders, in as many decades, and across a dozen states, and even a few in Mexico. It didn’t take very long for law enforcement nationwide to begin confirming Martinez’s statements regarding homicide victims (dating back to 1980). Cold cases from California to Florida were being re-opened and fact-checked against the meticulous details offered by the man known as “El Mano Negra,” The Black Hand.
The media quickly and ostensibly categorized Martinez with the most sensational and headline-worthy moniker to have ever been bestowed upon the world’s most heinous “serial killer.” Investigators, conversely, shifted their attention to another theory. The confessed killer’s accounts of homicides were sometimes underscored by tidbits of revelations, albeit elusive and vague, that seemed to point less to the serial-killer profile and more toward a criminal underworld connection.
Despite a willing and seemingly eager desire to divulge details of his crimes down to the most minute detail, Martinez remained very diligent in not providing much of any information that could be damaging to certain people and organizations for whom he worked. The most he would say to the authorities on that subject is that a lot of his jobs were from cartels. A side note here: regarding the Joaquin Barragan case (and others who Martinez confessed to killing in California), Tulare County had a documented presence of gang and cartel activity.
Now, shall we step into the mind of this confessed killer? See the sinister story unfold from the perspective of the perpetrator? Watch the clip below for a sneak peek:
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