June 19, 2014 / 8:10 PM / in 4 years

Hitman for Mexican cartel pleads guilty to Alabama murder

(Reuters) - An admitted Mexican drug cartel hitman who has acknowledged killing dozens of people over more than three decades pleaded guilty in state court in Alabama on Thursday to murdering a man last year for making disparaging comments about his daughter, prosecutors said.

Jose Manuel Martinez, 52, has been charged with killing 11 people in California and Florida between 1980 and 2011, and has told investigators that his list of victims runs to more than 30 people in multiple states, said District Attorney Errek Jett of Lawrence County, Alabama.

The plea deal, entered in court in Moulton, Alabama, calls for Martinez, a California native, to serve a 50-year prison term, Jett said. Martinez will likely next face capital murder charges in a 2006 Florida double murder that could carry the death penalty, the prosecutor added.

Martinez is also facing murder charges in nine California killings, prosecutors there have said.

The murder at issue on Thursday involved Jose Ruiz, an Alabama man acquainted with Martinez’s daughter. Martinez was visiting his daughter in Alabama last year when he met Ruiz, who - unaware Martinez was the woman’s father - said she was a bad mother and called her “a name or two,” Jett said.

Martinez did not immediately kill Ruiz. Instead, seething over the comments, he returned to Alabama months later, lured Ruiz to a remote area, and shot him twice in the head at close range, Jett said.

“This was just a blatant execution,” Jett said. “There is no question about it.”

Martinez was arrested by U.S. border police in Arizona later in 2013 after a records check showed that he was wanted on a homicide charge, prosecutors have said. He told investigators he was a debt collector for a Mexican drug cartel.

Martinez’s defense attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Editing by Edith Honan and Will Dunham

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