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WSB-TV 2 Atlanta
by: Liz Artz, Tony Thomas
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. – Gwinnett County police said a man and four children were found stabbed to death in a Loganville home Thursday morning.
When officers arrived at the home on Emory Lane, they found the victims dead. A fifth child was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
The victims were identified by police as Martin Romero, 33, Isabela Martinez, 10, Dacota Romero, 7, Dillan Romero, 4, and Axel Romero, 2.
Diana Romero, 9, is in serious, but stable condition at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The mother of the children, identified as Isabel Martinez, 33, has been charged with 5 counts of murder. Police said she made the 911 call Thursday morning.
She is being held in the Gwinnett County jail without bond. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Friday morning.
“The suspect we have in custody is the wife/mother of the victims involved,” said Gwinnett County Police spokesperson Michele Pihera.
“The kids were fantastic kids. They had tons to live for and a future ahead of them, so it’s awful and devastating,” he said.
Neighbors said the victims’ family is having a hard time processing what happened.
“They don’t know what to do, where to go, what to believe,” neighbor Debra Klingman said.
Neighbors said Martinez was depressed over her father’s death, but otherwise seemed to be a loving mother and wife.
“She seemed so normal, like a regular mother,” said neighbor Letty Perez. “She was good, went to our church last weekend. She was there with us.”
When Channel 2’s Liz Artz asked Perez if she thought the suspect was a good mother, she replied, “Yes she was a good mother, definitely a good mother.”
The Gwinnett County Police Department said this crime was “horrendous.”
A father and four of his children were found stabbed to death at a home in Loganville. A fifth child was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
Channel 2 Action News’ cameras were rolling as family gathered in the street and hugged. Perez said Martinez was depressed over the death of her father in Mexico.
“She said her dad passed away months ago, she was in depression and we go to her house and pray sometimes for her dad,” Perez said.
One neighbor said the family hadn’t been seen all Wednesday. It was so unusual they sent a cousin to check on them around 4 p.m.
“One of the cousins came and knocked on door, no one answered… suspicious,” the neighbor said.
Family members have set up a GoFundMe page if you would like to help.
Police believe the killings occurred between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
A fifth child is in stable condition at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Isabel Martinez, 33, was arrested and booked into the Gwinnett County Detention Center just before 11 a.m. on Thursday. She’s accused of killing her husband Martin Romero, 33, and children Isabela Martinez, 10, Dacota Romero, 7, Dillian Romero, 4, and Axel Romero, 2.
Martinez is facing six counts of aggravated assault, five counts of murder and five counts of malice murder. She’s also being held for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Police showed up at the Martinez home on Emory Lane in unincorporated Loganville after a woman called 911 from inside the house to tell them that several people had been stabbed at about 4:47 a.m. The caller may have been Martinez, police said.
When officers arrived, they found the Romero, who was in his mid-30s, dead in the home along with four of his children. Pihera said it’s up to the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the exact cause of death, but warrants against Martinez allege that she stabbed the family members sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
“Fortunately, our officers found a female under the age of 10 who was suffering from very serious injuries,” Pihera said. “And she was taken to a local hospital.”
That girl was 9-year-old Diana Romero. As of about 8 p.m., Pihera said Diana was still in serious condition, although she is stable.
“We continue to pray for Diana’s recovery both physically and emotionally as she learns about what happened to her father and siblings,” Pihera said.
Police and media crawled all over the normally quiet Loganville mobile home neighborhood as the Gwinnett County Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit processed the scene. Their white, clinical vehicle stood out in contrast with the playground equipment in the victims’ yard.
Neighbor Ivan Nava, 15, said this wasn’t anything he’d seen in the neighborhood before.
“It’s a good community right here,” Nava said. “This is just really surprising.”
He described the neighborhood as being tight-knit where everybody seemed to know everybody. The victims even had cousins who lived in the area, just a few doors down from where the stabbing took place, he said.
Family members declined to speak to the media.
Nava said the Martinezes were newcomers to the neighborhood. The kids and their parents had moved in within the last month or two and weren’t particularly well-known yet.
Nava said he’d seen the children around the neighborhood before. He said they seemed like normal, happy kids.
Neighbor Rafael Ramirez said the mother had been “acting bizarre” and experiencing hallucinations since the death of her father about 20 days ago. She apparently had spoken to a pastor at a local church on Thursday morning, according to Ramirez.
But Jim Hollandsworth got the impression the five kids were fine. He works for the Path Project, an after-school program that helps kids in mobile home parks get to high school graduation. He said most the kids in the Loganville neighborhood know about and attend the program.
He said the victim’s children began attending almost as soon as they moved to the neighborhood.
“Some of my staff knew the kids well,” Hollandsworth said. “They said they were great and happy kids.”
Now those kids and the crimes against them have become national news. Pihera said she can’t recall any murder involving children that has been this deadly druing her time serving Gwinnett.
“This is a horrendous crime,” she said. “What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand.”
A GoFundMe page was set up by a family member identified as Hallie Romero. She said they are trying to raise funds for funeral costs as well as medical bills for the sole survivor, Diana. Hallie also also shared photos of the family.
Martinez’s first appearance hearing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. Pihera said she has been cooperating with officials, but officials are not releasing the motive behind the crime.