CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Two Wildwood police officers testified Monday that Alberto Martinez, charged with murder in the death of Vincent DeSario, carried a baseball bat in the days before DeSario was beaten with one.
DeSario, 19, was in Wildwood on May 10, 2010 ,when Martinez allegedly struck him with a bat.
First Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson said at a hearing Monday, when a May trial date was set, that DeSario and two of his friends were visiting from Edison at the time to participate in a golf tournament. They were walking along Atlantic Avenue when one of them tripped and they started to laugh.
"Are you laughing at me?" Martinez reportedly asked. Then he swung the bat and hit DeSario in the head, Johnson said.
DeSario, a college student, remained hospitalized for the next two weeks before dying May 24, 2010, at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
Officers Donald Boice and Nino Cusella each said Martinez had been identified as someone seen carrying a bat in the Walgreens drugstore in Wildwood on May 6 and that on May 8 they found him at Squeeky’s Laundromat with a baseball bat attached to his bike.
Boice said he confiscated the approximately 26-inch bat at the laundromat, but Martinez was not arrested because he had not committed a crime. The bat was not returned.
A security guard at the Cape May County Social Service facility in Rio Grande also testified Monday that he saw Martinez with what he described as a small "souvenir bat" on May 10. He took the bat from Martinez while he was in the building and then returned it to him when he left.
Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten ruled that Martinez's prior possession of a bat would be admissible at trial for the purposes of proving Martinez's identification and possession of a similar object, but it did not show intent or motive.
Defense attorney Stephen Patrick argued that the previous incidents involving Martinez and a bat should not be admissible at trial. He noted that the bat the police saw on May 8 was confiscated and so could not have been the same bat that struck DeSario.
He added that no eyewitness statements identified Martinez as carrying a bat inside Walgreens.
Johnson said the prior incidents showed that Martinez had access to a similar weapon.
The day DeSario was struck with the bat his two friends and two bystanders identified Martinez as the person who hit DeSario, Johnson said.
After that motion was settled, Superior Court Judge Patricia Wild set a trial date for May 6. She said it would be a bench trial, meaning she would hear the case and not a jury, unless Martinez wants a jury trial at a later date. Wild will handle the case because Batten is moving to the Chancery Division of Superior Court.
Patrick said his client wanted to see Wild in action before deciding if he wanted either a bench or jury trial.
In addition, Patrick said he would pursue an insanity defense.
Batten previously ruled Martinez competent to stand trail, but that was after the defendant was under psychiatric care.
Johnson told the judge that Martinez "claims a mirror image of himself struck the victim."
Martinez is charged with murder as well as a weapons charge. He faces life in prison if convicted.
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