Miguel Angel Martinez was just 17 years old when, in January 1991, he was arrested for his role in the savage murders of three people in Laredo, Texas. The triple murder, which was linked to Satanism, resulted in Martinez being sentenced to death; he became the youngest person ever put on death row in the state. A decade later, though, in 2002, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Everything you need to know about the Satanic murders is in this Miguel Martinez wiki.
Who Is Miguel Martinez?
Miguel Angel Martinez was born on August 6, 1973, in Laredo, Texas, a city along the Mexican border. Raised by his single mother, Martinez is the oldest of three siblings; he has a younger brother, Daniel, and a sister, Ruthie.
The tight-knit family struggled financially. They lived with Martinez’s grandmother until he was 11 years old. After this, his family moved to federal housing. Yet they remained close to his grandmother.
Miguel Martinez went to public school in Laredo, where he achieved average and above-average grades. He is remembered for his good behavior. In fact, school records do not reveal any gang-related activities, skipping of classes, or punishment for misbehaving.
During high school, Martinez was accepted into the Laredo school district’s program for gifted students. He maintained a “B” average and excelled in a number of different academic programs.
Martinez was also very active with the Church of Nazarene, actively participating in Bible study and Bible quizzing competitions in San Antonio and Dallas.
Not that Martinez’s high school years were all about school and church. Growing up, Miguel Martinez led a pretty typical life—hanging out with friends, going to parties, playing video games, etc.
During high school, Martinez spent most of his time with two friends, fellow classmates Miguel Venegas and Manuel “Milo” Flores.
Martinez, Venegas, and Flores spent a lot of time together, and because Flores came from a wealthy family, he provided the group with drugs. It has been said that smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine were among the activities the three bonded over.
“Venegas was 16 at the time, and Flores was 17 and I was 17… Milo [was wealthy] and had the means to get drugs. That was what joined us: smoking marijuana and doing cocaine,” said Martinez.
They weren’t exactly the Three Musketeers. Martinez noted that “[Venegas] was not someone I necessarily enjoyed having around.”
Still, the three would get together and do drugs in Flores’ apartment, which was located behind his parents’ house.
In 1991, 17-year-old Miguel Martinez was well on his way to graduating from high school. After which, he had his sights set on joining the U.S. Air Force; he had already enlisted in the Air Force’s Delayed Enlisted Program.
It was never to be. One afternoon, Martinez went to hang out with his two friends. The three of them sat around playing video games, drinking, and smoking weed. That is, until Venegas decided they needed to ramp things up; he wanted to break into a stranger’s house and cause some damage.
On January 17, 1991, Miguel Martinez, an individual who had never been arrested or in trouble with police, would soon be charged with participating in a triple murder.
January 17 and 18, 1991 – The Satanic Triple Murders
Miguel Martinez, 17, and Venegas, 16, were hanging out at 17-year-old Milo Flores’ place in Laredo, Texas, on Thursday, January 17, 1991. As the day wore on, Venegas became bored and said he wanted to go out and rob someone.
The group, somehow persuaded by the 16-year-old Venegas, decided to rob the home of James Smiley, 33, a restaurant manager and Baptist minister in Laredo. Martinez actually knew Smiley after working for him at an Arby’s restaurant.
Smiley had taken an interest in Martinez and offered him his house keys. Why?
“I think it can be considered him seeing somebody that needed a father, or somebody that was disadvantaged, and trying to help,” Martinez said.
“I actually stayed with him at night [a few times], and going to work the next morning, he was my ride,” Martinez added.
Robbing Smiley wasn’t new. He and Flores had robbed Smiley before for drug money. They had his house key, knew Smiley lived alone, and figured he would be an easy target.
“It was supposed to be what we had done before. Nobody home, we go in, we take something.”
Before January 17, it had just been Martinez and Flores who had robbed Smiley. Venegas added a totally different dynamic to the group.
A Deadly Dare
That night, Martinez said, Venegas “insisted on doing some damage,” which is why the three of them brought along an axe, a baseball bat, and several knives. All of which were supplied by Flores.
The three of them then discussed stealing money from Smiley. Either Miguel Martinez or Milo Flores said to Venegas, “Ah, you won’t do that.”
“I come from a machista culture,” Venegas later said. “A dare is a dare.”
On a Mission
“He was on a mission,” Martinez said of Venegas. “It was not to steal anything or trash anything. He was on a mission for Satan. Satan wanted their souls.”
Flores drove Martinez and Venegas to Smiley’s house, dropped them off at around 1:00 a.m. on January 18, and drove off.
Venegas opened the door with the spare key supplied by Miguel Martinez, walked in, and saw someone sleeping on the couch. Martinez went in to have a look and told Venegas he didn’t know who that was.
The two went outside and Martinez said they should leave. Venegas had other plans; he said no, Satan wanted their souls.
Venegas went back inside and quickly took the axe to Ruben Martinez, 20, as he slept on the couch. After a few swings, he told Miguel Martinez it was his turn. Miguel allegedly stabbed Ruben once, then walked outside through the sliding doors and threw up.
Unbeknownst to him, Venegas had gone down the hallway. He went into the bedroom where 14-year-old Daniel Dueñez was sleeping and stabbed him to death. Crossing the hallway into James Smiley’s room, Venegas took the axe to his head. He then spotted a crucifix on the bedside table and turned it upside down.
Why didn’t Miguel Martinez leave after going outside? Martinez claims he didn’t leave because he was afraid of Venegas.
The two took a TV from the living room and stole Smiley’s car and drove back to Flores’ house.
It has never been determined what the connection was between James Smiley and the two people sleeping over at his home that night. It is thought that he was helping the two get on their feet after they’d snuck across the nearby Mexican border.
Venegas remembers the night a little differently. According to Venegas, it was Flores’ idea to take weapons to Smiley’s home, not his. He also said that even before they got to the house, they’d planned on murdering Smiley. He had, after all, been dared to do so.
Venegas Confirms He Was Motivated by Satan
Venegas might not agree on everything that occurred that night, but he does stand by the claim that the devil made him do it.
“At eight years old, I became convinced that I was the son of the devil,” Venegas said. “There used to be a bunch of black widow spiders, and I would fill up a jar of black widows, and take off my shirt…and I’d just put the black widows on my chest. None of them ever bit me, so I’m convincing myself I’m the son of the devil.”
Venegas went on to say that when he went down the hallway after killing the sleeping Ruben Martinez on the couch, one of the other victims woke up, looked at him, and then fell back asleep. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘The devil’s got my back.’”
In the end, Venegas believed that the devil would kill him if he didn’t murder the three people in the house that night.
“I took three lives,” Venegas said. “I did that. I can’t lie. I can’t say that I did not do something so heinous. And the 41 years (his prison sentence) that were given to me is just like a little slap in the hand.”
Assistant Laredo Police Chief Jesus Torres, who was the lead investigator in the case, said “the level of violence was incredible.” He also said there were signs that 14-year-old Dueñez had put up a fight.
Torres added, “Their bodies, their heads were smashed. In the master bedroom…the crucifix had been turned upside down.”
That doesn’t mean the investigation was cut and dry.
The local police arrived at the home of Milo Flores. They explained to his father, a district attorney, that Flores had been cleared of any wrongdoing but they still needed the axe used in the murders.
When Flores’ father asked him why he was involved in the crime at all, he told his father they were just going to wreck the house and “do something bad to someone who appeared to be good but was really bad.”
When asked what Flores meant, Miguel Martinez avoided answering, saying, “There are some things I haven’t completely dealt with.”
Was James Smiley a Pedophile?
Venegas, though, was not quite as reluctant. He said Smiley had been inappropriate with Martinez and it was widely known in Laredo that Smiley preyed on children.
“Smiley was a pedophile,” Venegas said, adding that there were other families willing to back him up on this claim.
The members of Smiley’s church, though, refuted that claim.
So, too, did former Webb County District Attorney Joe Rubio, who prosecuted the case. His investigation showed that Smiley was an “outstanding citizen” devoted to his family, work, and church.
Jay Dickey, a minister at First Baptist Church, said Smiley loved helping people and families in need. He also praised Smiley for his mission work, working for an orphanage in Nuevo Laredo.
The Trial and Three Very Different Verdicts
Miguel Martinez went on trial in April 1992. Martinez was tried using Texas’ Law of Parties, with the prosecution arguing that even though Venegas was the main instigator and was primarily responsible for the three murders, Martinez was “party” to the planning and execution of the crime.
It was a quick trial, lasting all of five days.
Because he was tried as an adult and found guilty, he was sentenced to death. At the ripe age of 19, Miguel Martinez was the youngest person on Texas’ death row.
“I was visibly shocked when I was found guilty and given the death sentence,” he said. “It was like a bad dream—one I desperately wanted to wake up from but couldn’t.”
Because Venegas was only 16 when he committed the murders, it took some time to determine whether he should be tried as an adult. While his case bounced around from court to court, the impatient Venegas made a break for it.
In 1993, he escaped from a juvenile detention facility and fled to Mexico. He was recaptured two years later in Monterrey, Mexico. He was to be tried as an adult in 2004 and plead guilty to three counts of murder on the same day that jury selection was to begin for his trial.
He was sentenced to 41 years for the three murders. He will be released on November 16, 2033.
Despite previously saying the devil made him do it, following his sentencing, Venegas said he did not remember the murders because he was high from sniffing glue and snorting cocaine.
“I have maintained, and I still maintain in my heart, that I am not guilty for the reason that I was on drugs and I was beside myself,” Venegas told a San Antonio newspaper at the time. “I don’t remember much of what happened that night.”
Yes, Milo Flores drove Martinez and Venegas to Smiley’s neighborhood, and yes, he supplied the weapons. But he was not charged with anything.
His father, Manuel Flores, who was a local attorney who served 20 years as a state district judge, said he wishes his son had been given the chance to clear his name. Most likely, with his father defending him.
“I would have preferred for him to be accused, and face a jury of his peers and that he would’ve been declared innocent,” he said. “Because there were no facts that showed any guilt.”
Miguel Martinez in Prison
Life on death row was, as imagined, a nightmare for Miguel Martinez. An apparent excerpt of Martinez’s personal thoughts on his death row sentence reads:
“I was very frightened about the prospect of coming to death row. Other than television and movies, I had no knowledge of prison life. If half of what the inmates in jail said were true in their zeal to prepare me for it, I knew it was going to be a nightmare within a nightmare.
“When I arrived to death row, I was the youngest inmate here. I had little or nothing in common with my peers. The average fellow inmate was five to 10 years older than me. The environment was like nothing I could have envisioned in my wildest imagination. While I have been helped by some of the other men, my greatest accomplishment is to be blessed; fortunate to have the love and support of my family.
“From the inception, they have been at my side. You quickly find out upon arriving to death row that is not always the case. Without the emotional support of my family and friends, I shudder to think of a day in this man-made hell.”
Martinez went on to say that he spent his time reading and writing. He also wisely took advantage of an in-cell college correspondence course. He has since acquired a diploma and certification as a paralegal through the course.
Miguel Martinez’s death penalty ruling was commuted in 2002 to life in prison. He has been eligible for parole since 2006, but has been refused every time.