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Jury Urges Life Sentence in '91 Killing : Courts: James Martin, formerly of Ventura, was convicted of killing a Canadian tourist. A death penalty bid is rejected.

January 22, 1994|JULIE FIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A jury in Santa Barbara has recommended that a former Ventura man should spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the execution-style murder of a Canadian tourist two years ago.

Prosecutors had argued that James Lindsey Martin, 40, should receive the death penalty for the October, 1991, murder of Evelyn Marie Hendrix, 68, of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.

But after deliberating for 10 days in the penalty phase of Martin's trial, a Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury on Tuesday decided that Martin should instead be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

"I'm disappointed," said Santa Barbara County Deputy Dist. Atty. Hilary Dozer, who tried the case. "The defense presented evidence that the defendant had a somewhat abusive childhood. . . . But my feeling is that there are a lot of people who have had difficult childhoods that don't go around killing people."

While growing up, Martin lived in Ventura, Santa Paula and Bakersfield, the prosecutor said. He has spent most of the past 20 years in state prison and was released early from an Oklahoma prison less than six months before he killed Hendrix. In prison, he was trained as a motor-home mechanic.

Martin kidnaped Hendrix from mid-town Ventura and forced her to drive her motor home to a parking lot near the Ventura Pier. There, he placed a towel over the woman's head and shot her, Dozer said. The woman's body was found dumped off Casitas Pass Road near Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County. As a result, his trial was held in that county.

Hendrix was on her way to Los Angeles to put flowers on her mother's grave and visit an old friend when she was abducted.

Less than a week after the killing, Martin was suspected of shooting Lloyd Johnson of Oxnard inside Johnson's motor home at the San Buenaventura State Beach in the same manner. Johnson survived because the bullet fired at his head was made in the 1970s and the gunpowder had deteriorated, Dozer said.

Martin is also suspected of killing a 91-year-old man while burglarizing his house in Las Vegas about six weeks after the Johnson shooting. Martin was arrested after U.S. Border Patrol agents in New Mexico stopped him and a computer record check showed he was wanted on suspicion of murder.

He has not been charged in either of those cases, pending the outcome of the murder trial.

Martin is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday.

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