Wendy Martinez was stabbed to death in the District in September of last year. (Family photo)

As Wendy Martinez’s family and friends stood at a lectern in a D.C. courtroom, tearfully speaking about how the 35-year-old was loved and the impact she had on their lives, the stranger who killed her sat a few feet away. He rocked in his chair and, at times, smiled.

Anthony Crawford had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the Sept. 18, 2018, fatal stabbing of Martinez as she was out for an evening run in Logan Circle. And on Friday, a D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison for the random killing.

Authorities say Crawford stole a kitchen knife with a 5½-inch blade from a nearby Giant supermarket, walked about five blocks and, as Martinez was stopped at an intersection to wait for the traffic light, stabbed her seven times. Crawford ran off, leaving a trail of blood, authorities said. Martinez staggered into a nearby Chinese carryout, where patrons tried desperately to save her life.

The random, brutal slaying of the woman who just six days earlier was celebrating her engagement with her family and friends stunned the city, leaving many runners and joggers with a sense of vulnerability and outrage.

Before he was sentenced, Crawford, 23, stood up with legs and ankles in shackles and spoke for the first time publicly about killing Martinez.

“I want to apologize to my family for my poor decision,” he said. “I want to apologize to the Martinez family for my poor decision. I don’t know what else to say about my mental health.”

Court records show Crawford had a history of mental illness and had used synthetic drugs that can cause delusions. He was arrested in a park he frequented a mile north of where Martinez was stabbed. After his arrest, Crawford’s attorneys said he did not test positive for any synthetic drugs but had tested positive for cocaine.

Before the judge sentenced Crawford, his public defender, Dana Page, said it still remains unclear what caused her client to attack the petite runner.

“He is trying to understand what happened,” she said. “He is searching for the reasons. But we all know the reason. It’s Mr. Crawford’s mental illness.”

Page said Crawford has been receiving treatment. “The monster is not Mr. Crawford,” she said. “The monster is his brain.”


Cora Martinez, mother of Wendy Martinez, speaks during a 2018 vigil at Logan Circle. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)

Crawford, according to his attorneys, chose not to pursue a mental illness defense and instead decided to plead guilty. Several of Crawford’s family members sat in the back of the courtroom but did not speak during the proceeding.

Several of Martinez’s family members and friends tearfully described the young woman whose laugh resonated throughout a room and whose love of God, family and friends inspired so many.

Cora Martinez repeatedly referred to her daughter as her “princess” and said Wendy Martinez was Crawford’s “perfect target.”

“She only did what hundreds of people do each day,” she said. “She took a run in the city that she loved.”

Several of Martinez’s family members referenced another recent fatal attack, the Aug. 27 slaying of 27-year-old Margery Magill as she walked a dog in a Northwest Washington neighborhood just after 8:30 p.m. A hearing for the 24-year-old arrested and charged with that slaying — who according to court records also has a history of mental illness — is scheduled for Monday.

“This is the worst nightmare I have ever lived,” Cora Martinez said. “I feel for the mothers who have children in this city, for young people who wanted to come to this city to help this world. I feel for those parents. I want this city to be a safer place to live, work and help the world.”

She and Daniel Hincapie, Wendy Martinez’s fiance, both spoke of Wendy’s Christian faith, which they said would direct her to show love and mercy, even to the man who stole her life.

“I do not wish for anything bad for you,” Hincapie said, turning toward Crawford. “I hope you will begin a path of peace and redemption. What you did was horrible, but nothing is impossible. I hope you give it a try.”

A 30-year prison sentence is the mandatory minimum for first-degree murder in the District. “You cruelly, viciously, savagely and needlessly ended the life of someone who everyone seems to agree was a wonderful person,” Judge Craig Iscoe said before issuing the sentence.

“I recognize the mental issues that may have contributed to these actions,” the judge said, “but they have created inescapable, enduring and permanent harm.”