A 52-year-old California man told authorities in Alabama he was behind not only a homicide there but more than 30 killings as part of his job as a “debt collector” for Mexican drug cartels, CNN reported on Friday.
Sheriff’s officials in Lawrence County identified Jose Manuel Martínez as the suspect in the shooting death of 32-year-old Jose Ruiz on Thursday and linked him to 13 other violent deaths after his confession. Authorities said he was caught after his DNA was found on a cigarette butt inside a truck belonging to one of the victims in a 2006 double-murder in Marion County, Florida.
“It’s how he fed his family, is how he explained it,” Marion County Detective T.J. Watts said to CNN. “And if he didn’t do the job, someone else would do it.”
Martínez told investigators he has been working as an enforcer since he was 16, collecting debts from drug dealers and pocketing 25 percent of the money he recovered. He said he made $210,000 for killing the two men in Florida.
AL.com reported that Martínez was extradited to Lawrence County after being arrested while trying to cross the border from Mexico into Yuma, Arizona.
Authorities in Lawrence County said to CNN that Martínez and Ruiz had entered into an unspecified “business arrangement,” a relationship which soured when Ruiz allegedly started bad-mouthing another man’s girlfriend, not realizing the woman in question was Martínez’s daughter. Ruiz’s body was found in a truck belonging to the other man, Jamie Romero, near Bankhead National Forest on March 4. Charges against Romero were dropped following Martínez’s confession.
Lawrence County Sheriff Bill Mitchell told WHNT-TV that Martínez has been forthright about his involvement in Ruiz’s death.
“He went through the case and gave us information that no one else would have had,” Mitchell said to WHNT. “There’s gonna be others. I think he’ll tell us about as we go along, and we’ll continue to work with him and see how far we get with it.”
Watch CNN’s report, aired Friday, below.