No easy answer to what's next in Leisa Martin's murder case
BEMIDJI -- Troy and Todd Martin have been in and out of courtrooms since 2010 when one of them confessed to moving their sister, Leisa’s, dead body after her death in 1998.
Just last week, Troy Martin’s second-degree murder trial in Bemidji County Court ended with a not guilty verdict. Todd Martin, 38, awaits sentencing.
Leisa Martin was asphyxiated after a night of drinking with one or both of her brothers; conflicting testimony was given during the most recent trial. Her body was found in a wooded area off Strawberry Mountain Road near Bagley on Oct. 31, 1998. The case went cold until Todd Martin was arrested for DWI in 2010.
Todd Martin told law enforcement during his arrest that he assisted his brother Troy, 41, in moving Leisa’s body from their Bagley home. In a sworn statement to law enforcement, Todd implicated Troy as the person who caused Leisa’s death.
After Todd’s admission, both brothers were arrested and charged with second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, aiding an offender/accomplice after the fact, interference with a dead body/concealing evidence and second-degree unintentional murder.
Todd Martin plead guilty to aiding an offender/accomplice after the fact but would not be sentenced until after Troy’s trial. Since the outcome of Troy’s jury trial, in which Todd testified, people are wondering how Todd could have aided an offender who has yet to be found.
“Well actually, it’s a bit convoluted,” explained Clearwater County attorney Richard Mollin. “That may be the way that the headline part of the statute reads, but the substance of (Todd’s) plea was to disposing of the body.”
Mollin said although Troy Martin has been acquitted of causing Leisa Martin’s death, Todd Martin could still theoretically be guilty of aiding in the disposition of their sister’s remains.
Mollin and Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Eric Schieferdecker prosecuted the case against Troy Martin in Beltrami County, which ran from from Jan. 14 to Jan. 23. Troy Martin’s trial was originally going to be held in Clearwater County, but after jury questionnaire results were returned, it was moved to Beltrami County.
“Neither brother can be tried for Leisa Martin’s murder again,” Mollin said.
If additional discoveries are made and new evidence comes forward to indicate another person may be responsible for Leisa Martin’s murder, both brothers could still be subpoenaed.
“The only offense for which there is no statute of limitations is murder,” Mollin said.
All other charges are subject to a statute of limitations. The only charge against Todd Martin is that which he plead guilty to, aiding an offender/accomplice after the fact. Martin faces just more than four years in prison.
“The only thing that’s left is (Todd’s) sentencing, which has not been set yet,” Mollin said. Mollin suspects Martin will be sentenced within a month in Clearwater County Court in front of Judge Robert Tiffany.
Mollin inherited the Martin case three years ago. He said he had a chance to close it out when Troy Martin’s indictment was vacated by the court of appeals in 2012 but did not pursue that avenue.
“I felt then, as I do now, that we owed Leisa Martin more than that,” Mollin said.
Although Troy Martin was found not guilty, Mollin stands by his decision to prosecute.
“I’m the one who signed the complaint. I’m the one who made the decision that we go forward with Troy. I was satisfied at the time that there was a significant amount of evidence that would have implicated both of them,” Mollin said.