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State won’t seek death penalty in starved Flagstaff boy case

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against the parents and grandmother of a 6-year-old Flagstaff boy who was locked in a closet and died of starvation, the Coconino County Attorney’s Office said.

The boy’s parents, Elizabeth Archibeque and Anthony Martinez, and his grandmother, Ann Martinez, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges in his death.

Their attorneys had been preparing to argue against the possibility of capital punishment. The deadline for them to submit information to the prosecution over the weekend became moot because the death penalty was taken off the table, Coconino County Attorney William Ring confirmed.

Ring’s office had until October to make a decision on capital punishment. He declined comment on why prosecutors decided against seeking the death penalty.

“We’re grateful for this decision, and we believe it was the right call,” said Ryan Stevens, one of Ann Martinez’s attorneys. “Now we’re just shifting focus into regular defense and not focused on death penalty mitigation at this point.”

Archibeque’s attorney, Brad Bransky, declined comment. Anthony Martinez’s attorney, Joseph Carver, did not respond to a request for comment.

An autopsy determined that Deshaun Martinez, who weighed 18 pounds (8.1 kilograms) when police responded to the family’s apartment in early March, died of starvation. The manner of death was listed as homicide.

His parents initially attributed their son’s malnourished state to a medical condition and to ingesting diet or caffeine pills. Eventually, they told police they kept Deshaun and his older brother in a closet for 16 hours a day and gave them little to eat.

Police said the boys’ confinement was punishment for stealing food while the parents slept.

Ann Martinez has acknowledged spanking the boys with a red hanger and said she tried to give them food but Archibeque wouldn’t allow it, according to court documents.

Her attorneys are seeking to have her case sent back to the grand jury to correct what they said was a procedural error in the hope of getting the charges reconsidered. They argued that a prosecutor didn’t provide clear instruction on child abuse as it relates to felony murder. The state hasn’t responded yet to the motion.

The boys, their two sisters and their parents started staying with Ann Martinez in late December after living elsewhere in Flagstaff, according to court documents. They previously lived in Iowa, south of Des Moines.

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