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Anthony Martinez conviction

Father starved 6-year-old son in tiny closet for 16 hours a day for stealing food, boy weighed just 18 pounds when he died

Anthony Martinez, middle, was convicted on May 23, 2024, of first-degree murder in the March 2020 death of his son in Flagstaff, Arizona. The boy’s mother, Elizabeth Archibeque, left, was convicted in 2023, while his grandmother, Ann Martinez, right, awaits trial. (Flagstaff police)

An Arizona jury on Thursday convicted a father who starved his 6-year-son to death and forced the boy and his older brother to sit in a tiny closet 16 hours a day for more than a month as a punishment for stealing food as his parents slept.

The boy, Deshaun Martinez, weighed 18 pounds when he died in March 2020 in Flagstaff, roughly two hours north of Phoenix. His father, 28-year-old Anthony Jose Martinez, was convicted of first-degree murder, child abuse and kidnapping resulting in death, among other charges.

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    According to the Arizona Daily Sun, prosecutors said during closing arguments that Archibeque-Martinez knew his children were in bad shape but did nothing about it. Prosecutors showed pictures of Martinez buying groceries, proving there was an adequate amount of food in the home. They also reportedly pointed out that the two youngest children in the home, then ages 2 and 4, weighed 24 and 38 pounds and were treated like normal kids.

    Martinez’s wife and the mother of the children, Elizabeth Archibeque, last year pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping. A judge sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    The defense’s closing argument painted Archibeque as manipulating her husband into thinking everything was OK and that he was just following her directions, the Daily Sun reported.

    In March 2020, Deshaun’s tiny, lifeless body was discovered at the Martinez residence. An autopsy by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that the boy died of starvation, Phoenix-based CBS affiliate KPHO reports. The autopsy showed the boy had a “skeletal appearance” because he had almost no fat on his body.

    A typical, healthy weight for a 6-year-old in the United States would be markedly higher than 18 pounds, according to CDC data. Deshaun’s body was also covered in cuts and scrapes.

    His grandmother, Ann Marie Martinez, 54, is also facing murder and child abuse charges and is slated to go to trial in August.

    At first, the boy’s parents allegedly told the Flagstaff Police Department that Deshaun’s extremely low weight was due to the result of a chronic medical condition and because he had ingested caffeine or weight loss pills, The Associated Press reported. Over time, however, investigators were able to suss out an extreme regime of punishment that had been in force at the Martinez home.

    The boy’s parents later admitted they kept the dead child, as well as his older brother, locked up in a closet for some 16 hours a day and gave them very little to eat, police said. That method of “discipline” had been occurring for “about a month,” the parents allegedly admitted to police; it was meted out to punish the boys for sneaking out of their beds at night and eating food, the Daily Sun reported.

    The then-7-year-old boy was also found to be malnourished and was admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center. Doctors were able to get his weight up after the weekslong hospital stay. That boy, along with his younger siblings, are now in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

    Martinez and the grandmother were originally slated to be tried together in August 2022. Before that, the original prosecutor in the cases had to bow out after being appointed a judge. Later, a separate trial for the boy’s grandmother, who was also facing a kidnapping charge, suffered a setback when she was subject to a last-minute mental competency evaluation in July 2022.

    The judge chided Archibeque before sentencing her to life in prison. He called the torture of her son “heinous, cruel and depraved behavior.” Police described the horrific nature of the boy’s condition.

    “I have never seen something so horrific in all my life,” Flagstaff Police Detective Melissa Seay testified during the sentencing hearing. “[He] was just bones. His face was completely sunken in. It was just like a skeleton.”

    Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

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