When the four young, Martinez children went to bed Friday night, they had every expectation that, when they woke up, their mother would still be there and life would continue as usual.
Instead, in the early hours of Saturday morning, July 28, an intruder shot and killed her — cruelly ripping her away from them and changing their lives forever.
THE TRAGEDY occurred at 13620 Pennsboro Drive, in Chantilly's Brookfield community, a stone's throw from Brookfield Elementary. The victim was Morena Magdalena Martinez, 29, who held down two jobs to support her family.
Also shot, but "currently recovering," according to Fairfax County police, was a 29-year-old man who was a high-school friend of hers. Authorities have not released his name but, according to a court document, both he and Martinez were shot "multiple times."
A neighbor who asked not to be identified, since the killer is still at large, said people who knew the Chantilly woman believe a former boyfriend is responsible for her death.
"As far as I could tell, there was no sign of forced entry," said the neighbor. "The thinking is that she had broken up with a guy and that he just came in and shot her and the other guy, probably while everyone was sleeping."
This neighbor was also involved in the aftermath. He was asleep, around 1:30-2 a.m., when someone knocked on his door. "There was a guy in a T-shirt and shorts, blood running down his left arm, and he said, in broken English, 'Please call the police,'" said the neighbor. "I'd never seen him before."
But being a friend of Martinez and her family, he later recalled that the man was a friend of hers from high school and "she'd gone down to Tennessee to pick up him and his sister and daughter" and bring them back to her Chantilly home for a visit.
HOWEVER, at the time, the neighbor asked the wounded man in Spanish where his house was. And when he pointed in the direction of Martinez' house, the neighbor initially thought he meant a nearby home where people had recently gotten into a fight. So he didn't realize at first that his friend had also been shot.
Weak from his injury, the man then lay down on the neighbor's doorstep. And when he did, said the neighbor, "I saw a hole in his arm, and there was blood coming out from behind him, like someone had shot him in the back. I didn't want to turn him over because he was moaning and in pain and I didn't want to hurt him more."
So the neighbor called 911 and told the man to stay calm and sit tight because police were on the way. "I sat there and watched him, and he just kept saying, 'Morena Martinez,'" said the neighbor. "But I knew her as Lanie so [at first], I didn't have any idea it was her."
Later, when a Spanish-speaking police officer arrived, he learned the murder victim was the woman he knew. He said eight or more police cruisers converged on their street and officers were able to tell which home was the crime scene by the blood they saw outside the house, on the front doorway and front step leading inside.
"I told them there were four kids and a dog inside, so they called someone inside the house," said the neighbor. "Then they went in and got them all. I heard them shouting and making sure everybody was safe. A police officer handed me a child, and EMS checked all of them to make sure they were OK."
He said Martinez had a full-time job and was a part-time, real-estate agent. Her children range in age from the youngest — a 9-month-old baby boy — to a 9- or 10-year-old daughter. In between are two more boys.
At one time, said the neighbor, a man who'd fathered one of Martinez' sons lived there with her, but not at the time of the shooting. And when Centre View asked police spokesman Eddy Azcarote if Martinez and her husband were estranged, he replied, "I can't even confirm that she had a husband."
Afterward, the injured man was Medevaced to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment. Meanwhile, the neighbor looked after the children in his basement, where police established a temporary command center so they could interview people. He also called the children's grandparents, who came and identified Martinez' body and then took the children home with them.
THE NEIGHBOR figured that Martinez was probably found in her bedroom, since "none of the kids saw her" after she was shot. "A couple of them asked me if their mother was dead," he said. "But I deflected their questions until the grandparents could get there and answer them."
Still, he said, "It was a terrible scene for the children. I just told them that, the good thing was, they were all together and were all OK."
A July 28 affidavit for a warrant to search Martinez' home for items including "handguns, ammunition, cartridge casings, bullets, hairs, fibers, bloody clothes and furniture, latent fingerprints and shoe impressions" confirmed that her body was discovered in her bedroom. In the affidavit, homicide Det. John Wallace wrote that she'd sustained "what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds to her body."
Describing Martinez as a "very sweet person," the neighbor said he's angry that "someone was that narrow-minded to kill a woman who had four children depending on her. He was selfish, and I hope they catch him."
Other neighbors, returning home to Pennsboro Drive from work, early Saturday morning, found their street blocked off and emergency vehicles everywhere. Marciano Gomez arrived at 3 a.m. and was puzzled by the commotion. "I saw the police, but I didn't know why they were there," he said.
Three-year resident Victor Correra got home Saturday evening, around 6 p.m., to find traffic still barred from Lees Corner Road and Pennsboro. "I asked the police what happened and they didn't answer," he said. "Normally, it's a quiet area with no problems. Now I'm putting up a security fence."
"ONCE IN awhile, cars get egged or spray painted, but there's no violence," added Robert Panigot, who's lived on Pennsboro since 1970. "So this is very surprising." He said Saturday, around 2 a.m., police "rolled in with lots of cars and a helicopter." But since the shooting appears to be domestic, said Panigot, he doesn't fear for his own safety.
Neighbor Jack Patel also got caught in the roadblock when he arrived home from work Saturday at 5:30 a.m. He said he saw Martinez last Thursday, July 26, while both were out walking their dogs, and exchanged pleasantries with her. He, too, was stunned by a homicide occurring in what he said was usually a peaceful neighborhood with nice people.
Sadly, the tragedy was the second one this month in the local area — and in both instances, a woman was killed. On July 4, police responded to a home in Centreville's Fair Crest community where they found Hae Ja Kim, 43, lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. Police say her husband, Sang Byung Kim, 46, reportedly admitted stabbing her to death, and they arrested him and charged him with murder.
But the Martinez case — which police also believe was domestic in nature — remains open and unsolved. "The investigation is still very active and the detectives are working feverishly," said spokesman Azcarote. "They're all over it; all possibilities are being investigated."
Anyone with information about a suspect or this incident is asked to call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or police at 703-691-2131.