Wife charged in husband's death says he abused her; he complained she had an affair, took drugs

To his bar patrons, Lee Martin was a gregarious man who liked to pal around with the regulars. Behind the walls of his home, though, life was anything but jovial.

Neighbors said they often heard Martin and his wife, Jaclyn, arguing. In December, she accused him of abusing her. He countered by saying she was having an affair with her drug dealer, and he was accused of punching the man in a courthouse lobby. A police document describes her as having been "stealing from her husband for quite some time" and said she has "a drug and alcohol problem."

Before dawn on Wednesday, Jaclyn J. Martin, 29, stood accused of plotting her husband's death, with her brother as the triggerman, assisted by two teenagers. All four are charged with first-degree murder.

The 43-year-old victim died of multiple gunshot wounds early Saturday outside Hop's Inn, the bar he owned on Dundalk's Railway Avenue. He is survived by two teenage sons from a marriage that ended in 2005, and neighbors said he had adopted the young daughter Jaclyn Martin had in a previous relationship. She and Lee Martin had been married less than five years.

Police said that Jaclyn Martin "conspired with her brother," Robert M. Garner, 26, to commit the killing, and charging documents identified him as the gunman. The documents say that Garner paid two teenagers to help him — Sturm R. Davis, 19, who police say confessed to helping ambush the victim as he left his bar for the night, and Brandon M. Roth, also 19, who told detectives he drove the getaway car.

During questioning, the two younger men also told police that Garner had paid them to do the job. Davis got $300 and Roth $100, according to Lt. Robert McCullough, a spokesman for the Baltimore County police. It was not clear whether Jaclyn Martin had given her brother any money.

Police Chief James W. Johnson emphasized during a news conference Wednesday at the department's headquarters in Towson that Jaclyn Martin "orchestrated and arranged the murder with her brother and other associates."

It was the second time in less than three months that a wife stood accused of plotting her husband's homicide in the county. On March 1, William R. Porter was slain at a gas station he owned on East Joppa Road. His wife and five others were charged with his murder and are awaiting trial.

The four defendants in the Martin case were being held at the county jail in Towson. A booking photograph taken Wednesday morning showed Jaclyn Martin — known to friends as Jae — wrapped in a gray blanket, her hair dyed a flaming red, her eyes downcast.

Lee Martin — his first name was Robert, but nobody seemed to use it — had just locked up his bar at approximately 2:20 a.m. Saturday and was headed to his home next door when he was shot. After interviewing witnesses, police said that two men had been seen running away. At least part of the crime was captured by the bar's surveillance cameras, McCullough said.

Davis, the first of the four accused to be questioned Tuesday about the homicide, "confessed to arriving at Hop's Inn for the purposes of helping Robert Garner beat up Robert Martin," a detective wrote in a charging document.

When Martin left the bar, Davis told the detective, Garner displayed a handgun and demanded the tavern owner's wallet. Martin gave the gunman some cash, and Garner shot him several times, the document says. Davis and Garner then ran to a car that Roth was driving and fled, according to the detective's account of the interview.

Roth, the next to be questioned, admitted that he drove the two other men to the bar "so that Robert Garner could deal with someone." From the car, Roth said, he heard eight gunshots.

When police first questioned Jaclyn Martin, she said she had been asleep at the time of the shooting, but telephone records showed "that she was on her house phone during the minutes leading up to her husband's murder," the charging document says. "Jaclyn had several conversations with her brother, Robert Garner, who was hiding between her residence and the bar, waiting to shoot and kill the victim," it says.

The document says that just before the shooting Jaclyn Martin "called her husband and called her brother back."

Garner has a criminal record dating to the mid-2000s, with arrests for burglary, assault, destruction of property and auto theft. At one point, authorities in Florida issued a warrant for Garner that described him as a fugitive from justice. In 2005, he was convicted in Baltimore County Circuit Court of second-degree assault and sentenced to three years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended.

In September 2008, Garner was convicted of assault after an incident in which police said he cut a woman's hand with a knife during an argument in a friend's house, and pointed the weapon at another woman who was trying to defuse the situation. He was sentenced to two years in prison by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II.

In January 2009, Garner wrote a letter to the judge asking for a reconsideration of his sentence, and said he had been "actively participating" in substance-abuse classes and working as a trusty while in prison. "I have had a past with drugs and I realize it's not the way of life for me," Garner wrote in longhand. "I wish to better myself not just for me but for others as well."

The defendant thanked the judge "in advance for your compassion and understanding." It was not clear Wednesday whether Turnbull reduced Garner's sentence or whether he was freed early under normal release guidelines.

Roth was arrested two weeks ago by a Baltimore County police officer and charged with marijuana possession. His trial date was scheduled for July 29.

A search of court records in Baltimore, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County shows no criminal record for Davis other than the new murder charge.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Jaclyn Martin was granted a temporary protective order under which her 260-pound husband was ordered not to abuse, threaten or harass her or to show up at her workplace, Top Notch Truck and Trailer Repair in Curtis Bay. He also was ordered to stay away from her daughter's school and child-care providers, and was told to surrender his firearms, which she claimed in her complaint consisted of six handguns and at least five hunting rifles or shotguns.

"He's telling me he's going to kill me and anyone who tries to help me, and that he's keeping my daughter," Jaclyn Martin wrote in her complaint. "He's been coming to property where I'm staying and taking pictures and setting off my car alarm all hours of nite."

She and her daughter had moved out of the couple's apartment next to Hop's Inn two weeks before filing the complaint and were living on Waldman Avenue in Edgemere, but apparently moved back to Lee Martin's home some time before he was killed. She said her husband's bank account contained $500,000 and that he owned other property worth at least $330,000.

In her complaint, Jaclyn Martin also asked for protection for David A. Bailey, 31, whom she described as her "best friend."

When she failed to show in Baltimore County District Court in Essex a week later to argue for a permanent protective order, the case was dismissed.

But on the same day that she had filed her complaint, a judge in the same courthouse granted Lee Martin's request for an emergency evaluation of his wife, a process that determines whether a person is mentally competent. As he was leaving the courtroom, he saw his wife and Bailey entering the building.

"Martin charged Mr. Bailey and hit him with his fist and tackled Bailey to the ground," according to a report from a police officer who was summoned to the courthouse in response to call about a fight in the lobby. "Martin believes that Mr. Bailey is having an affair with his wife and supplying her illegal narcotics."

The officer arrested Martin and booked him on a charge of second-degree assault. On March 24, the charge was placed on the stet docket, meaning that if the defendant stayed out of trouble for a year the matter would be dropped.

After the news broke Wednesday that Martin's wife and her alleged accomplices had been charged with his murder, residents of the neighborhood in which he had lived for most of his life were asked for their thoughts.

"Lucky the police got them before the bikers did," Henry Scott, clad in leather vest and fingerless gloves, said as he prepared for a trip to the Eastern Shore on his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. Scott said he had known Martin for 25 years but knew his second wife only "very minimally."

Scott was dismissive of the paltry sum that police say enticed the two teenagers to get involved. "For $400," he said. "That goes to show you how much life is worth."

JoLynn Skelton, who owns the Railway Inn, a bar just up the street from where Martin was killed, said she was glad of the arrests. "The neighborhood can get back …" she paused. "It's going to take time."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters Peter Hermann, Arthur Hirsch and Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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