It was just before 8 p.m. in the popular Logan Circle neighborhood when someone saw two people “wrestling and tussling” on the sidewalk and then heard a woman scream. The witness then noticed a man “skipping” away, a D.C. homicide detective testified in court Thursday.
On that fall evening, Wendy Martinez, 35, was fatally stabbed as she went on a run through the city. Days later, police arrested Anthony Crawford, 23, who authorities allege committed the random attack.
It remains unclear, the detective said, who was screaming: whether it was Martinez or one of the many witnesses — one of whom dodged oncoming cars to cross the street in an effort to help the victim.
“We have the scream,” D.C. homicide detective Charles Fultz testified. “It could be Ms. Martinez. It could be the people running. Who knows?”
About 15 of Martinez’s friends and family members filled two rows of a courtroom in D.C. Superior Court as new, graphic details of Martinez’s Sept. 18 death were outlined for Judge Craig Iscoe. The brutal and unprovoked attack on a busy street shocked the city.
The preliminary hearing lasted for more than five hours and is expected to continue Friday. Iscoe will determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to move forward and whether the defendant should be jailed while prosecutors continue their investigation or released until trial, as is the wish of Crawford’s public defenders.
At the hearing, Fultz testified that DNA belonging to both Crawford and Martinez was found on a knife with a 5½-inch blade that witnesses say they saw the attacker discard as he was fleeing the scene. DNA from Crawford and Martinez was also found on a yellow sweater that some witnesses said they saw the assailant wearing before the attack. One witness, the detective testified, noticed the attacker remove the sweater after looking at the sleeves following the incident.
In court, Crawford, who court papers say has a history of mental illness, including paranoia, rocked back and forth in his seat. At times he closed his eyes and at other times moved his mouth while attorney Eugene Ohm argued on his behalf.
Ohm was joined by Laura Rose, an attorney with the District’s Public Defender Service who often focuses on clients whose defense is centered on mental illness.
For much of the hearing, Ohm focused on discrepancies in the accounts of witnesses. Fultz testified that detectives interviewed a number of people who were in the area just before or immediately after the attack. They gave conflicting descriptions of what the attacker was wearing, from a white hat and striped T-shirt to a black T-shirt. Police initially were told to look for two attackers, one of whom was wearing a white cap.
Fultz testified Crawford was arrested after several people who know him contacted authorities after seeing media reports that included surveillance video released by police of the person they believe was the attacker. Crawford was charged with second-degree murder while armed.
Fultz said authorities believe Crawford cut himself during the attack and trailed blood for about six blocks. The detective said when Crawford was arrested days later, he had multiple bandages on his right hand.
Several witnesses told police they saw a man who fit Crawford’s appearance walking around, mumbling to himself. One witness told detectives the attacker was mumbling incoherently to himself during the attack.
No one chased after the attacker, Fultz said. But at least one witness told detectives they saw a man fitting Crawford’s description, “skipping and sidestepping away.”
Fultz said there was no indication of what may have prompted the killing, such as an attempted robbery or sexual attack.
Ohm asked Fultz questions about Crawford’s background. Fultz said one witness knew Crawford for about six months and said Crawford often smoked the synthetic drug K2. But Fultz said it was unclear whether Crawford had used the drug the day of the attack.
Another witness who had known Crawford longer said he had a history of mental illness, including bipolar disease and schizophrenia, often complaining that he was being bullied by people who family members said did not exist, the detective testified. Another witness told authorities Crawford had stopped taking his prescribed medication and began talking to himself in the weeks before the attack.
Fultz testified that during the five or six hours that Crawford was interrogated by detectives, he often referred to himself as “President Anthony Crawford” and had conversations with multiple people who were not in the room.
Police said Martinez, a marathon runner, was stabbed six times in the head and neck, and once in the back.
After the hearing, Martinez’s brother, Juan Carlos Martinez, said his family was “forever changed” on the evening his sister was killed.
“Our grief has no limits. Nothing can make us whole again,” he said, adding that the family was now “putting their trust” in the justice system.