A preliminary hearing was conducted last week to determine if there was enough evidence to bring to trial a man charged in the beating death of another man last year when they were both residents of Haviland Care Center, a residential mental health facility.
Brandon Brown, 31, was charged in the beating death of Jerry Martinez, 62. The alleged altercation took place May 17, 2015. Martinez died June 2 when he was taken off life support.
The preliminary hearing took place April 29 in Kiowa County District Court before Judge Ann Dixson.
Deborah Smitherman, an employee of Haviland Care Center, and Nancy Doss, a former employee of the center, testified to seeing Brown beating Martinez while he was lying in his bed in his room.
“I saw Brandon standing over Jerry, laying in his bed, punching him,” Smitherman said.
“I yelled at Brandon to stop. He stopped momentarily, then started again.”
C.W. Klebe, from the state attorney general’s office, who was assisting Kiowa County Attorney Scott James, asked Smitherman to describe Brown’s demeanor.
“I was afraid,” she said.
Smitherman and Doss identified Brown and testified to seeing him slam Martinez’s head to the floor and kicking him in the side.
“There was a huge pool of blood under Mr. Martinez’s head,” Doss said.
She described Brown’s face during the alleged attack.
“My reality wasn’t his reality,” Doss said. “He wasn’t present mentally. You would think his face would be contorted with rage. He wasn’t there.”
Smitherman and Doss testified that a scuffle ensued between Brown and another resident of the care center and the beating had ended by the time EMS and law enforcement arrived.
Rosa Spainhour, director of Kiowa County EMS, testified that a cervical collar had to be placed around Martinez’s neck and he suffered bruising, swelling, bleeding and lacerations to his head and face.
“He was critical,” Spainhour said. When asked by Klebe what that meant, she said he was “unstable” and there was a chance he would die.
Martinez was flown by LifeTeam to Wichita that night, Spainhour said.
Kiowa County Sheriff’s deputy Dell Bertram testified that apprehending Brown “didn’t go smoothly. It took work to get him handcuffed.”
Bertram and deputy Ray Stegman said Brown had to be tazed.
Kiowa County Sheriff Chris Tedder testified he drove Brown to Larned State Hospital the next day and read him his Miranda rights. Tedder said Brown said he did not feel sorry for Martinez and he wanted to teach him a lesson “about staying out of his room.”
Brown had originally been charged with aggravated battery. The charges were amended to second degree murder after Martinez’s death. Klebe told Dixson based on the beating descriptions by Smitherman and Doss, there was a “moment of reflection” with Brown that constituted pre-meditation. There was probable cause for Brown to be charged with first degree murder, Klebe said.
“This was a prolonged beating,” Klebe said. “This was not your ordinary run of the mill fight.”
Defense attorney Louis Podrebarc said there was not sufficient evidence to prove pre-meditation. He referred to Tedder’s testimony that Brown said he wanted to teach Martinez a lesson.
“How do they get a lesson when they’re dead?” Podrebarc said.
Judge Dixson said there was probable cause to bind the defendant to murder in the first degree.