MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) - There are new developments in the case of a confessed hitman. Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell says Jose Martinez' continued confessions have now cleared seventeen murder investigations across the country.
Martinez was in court Thursday morning for a hearing related to a motion asking the court to appoint new attorneys to defend his case. Martinez fired the first two court appointed attorneys claiming they were neglecting his case. Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Mark Craig granted the motion, setting a trial date in June.
Meanwhile, Martinez has been linked to even more deaths. Last time WHNT News 19 spoke with investigators in Lawrence County about him, they had cleared 11 different homicide cases, primarily in Florida and California.
Thursday, Sheriff Gene Mitchell says that number has risen to 17 different murders Martinez has admitted to, and investigators say they believe he's responsible for at least that many more, as many as 34 deaths, maybe more.
Martinez is still talking with investigators occasionally, and providing more and more details about other people he says he killed as a collection agent, or hitman, for a Mexican drug cartel. He's currently jailed in Lawrence County, though, for the March 2013 shooting death of a Decatur man, Jose Ruiz.
Sheriff Mitchell says Martinez is responsible for many other crimes.
"We've confirmed, where we've got someone on the other end saying 'yes, we had that murder and it was still unsolved,' we've had 17 and he's reported about 34," Mitchell said.
Sheriff Mitchell says Martinez has provided details of the cases that only someone involved in the crimes would know. But there are so many, some of the details are blurred, leaving investigators to literally canvass police agencies in various states to see if the information matches an unsolved killing in their area.
"We're able to send it to everybody at one time and you update your information occasionally on it, remind them that we're still looking, and every time we get something else you're going to be sending that out to where everybody can see it," said Mitchell.
Sheriff Mitchell is referring to using his department's NCIC computer system. Through the National Crime Information Center, various police and sheriff's agencies can share information such as this.
Granting Martinez' motion Thursday morning, Judge Craig announced the new attorneys would be named in the next few days. Although the trial in Lawrence County is scheduled for June, WHNT News 19 has learned it will probably be pushed back until August to give new attorneys time to prepare for trial.