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Widow: Police treating me as a suspect

Courtney Astolfi • Mar 25, 2014 at 11:30 AM

The wife of murder victim George Martin says Sandusky police are mistreating her, but detectives say this is simply not the case.

Detectives said their interactions with Florence Martin, 81, are par for the course in any homicide investigation.

Florence would disagree.

“I’ve been treated so cruel by the city police” she said.

Last week, she reached out to the Register to tell her side of the story.

It’s now been about four months since her husband, George, 86, was found dead inside their Campbell Street home. His body was riddled with stab wounds, and the attackers set fire to the home in an attempt to destroy any evidence.

Police have yet to make an arrest, but they’ve compiled a long list of suspects.    

They’ve been ruling each person out, one by one, in hopes of identifying George’s killers.

Investigators have their sights set on two people who were recorded on nearby surveillance cameras on the night of the murder. Video footage shows the suspects approaching the Martins’ home, then leaving in a hurry less than two minutes before neighbors called police to report a fire at the home.

Those two people are prime suspects, Detective Gary Wichman said.

Included on the lengthy list of suspects, however, is Florence.

On March 5, detectives served a search warrant at the hotel room where Florence has been living since George died. There, they seized her computer, and they also obtained her consent to search her vehicle, Wichman said.

Investigators said they found drops of blood inside the car. The drops were swabbed and sent to a crime lab for testing. The data on Florence’s computer, meanwhile, is also being analyzed, Wichman said.

Florence’s car has been impounded as investigators await results from the crime lab that tested the blood swabs.

Florence alleges police tricked her into letting them search her vehicle. She said for the past three weeks, she has missed doctor appointments because she doesn’t have a car.

But Florence indeed signed off on the search of the vehicle, Wichman said.

“We have reason to believe she has a blood disorder and there’s a strong possibility the blood is hers,” Wichman said. “But again, we have to be thorough”

Said Florence: “They said they’re not accusing me of murdering my husband, but indirectly they are. I’m the number one suspect, so that tells me they’re accusing me of this”

Wichman disagrees.

“I’m fairly confident that we’re looking at the two people seen on video,” he said. “Unfortunately we came across blood, so we had no choice except to impound the vehicle.”

Florence said she wants to know why detectives have yet to return her car.

“They got the DNA out of my car” she said. “Why don’t they let me have my car? I’m not going anyplace.”

Wichman said detectives searched the vehicle so they could eliminate Florence as a suspect.

"We don’t believe she was directly involved,” Wichman said. “Our job is to eliminate (the possibility of) her involvement.”

In recent weeks, detectives have paired with fire investigators to nail down a timeline of the night George was killed.

As they probed the spread of the fire, they learned it was likely set shortly before firefighters were called. If that’s the case, Florence — who left the home about two hours prior — would have had no role in setting the fire, Wichman said.

“Going by the timeline, there’s physically no way she did it” Wichman said.

As for the seized computer?

“As far as I’m concerned, (they) stole it” Florence said.

“I said, ‘What’s my computer got to do with this?’” she said. “And they said, ‘You might’ve went online and tried to find out how to murder somebody.’”

Police have already reviewed Florence’s cellphone records and other material, but the computer would contain information that investigators had yet to review: Florence’s emails.

“With modern-day technology, it’s another source of communication,” Wichman said. “Obviously, most people use cellphones and landlines, but they also use computers and Facebook and email”

Even so, Florence feels like she’s been left in the dark.

“It’s harassment” she said. “They don’t call me back when I call them”

She alleges police have only talked to her once or twice since George’s death, and they’ve never interviewed her.

“I’ve been in frequent contact with her,” Wichman replied. “I’ve been to the place where she’s staying now numerous times, and I’ve talked to her on the phone several times. It’s almost been weekly”

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of George’s killers.

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