Man avoids death penalty for 1998 murder

A 37-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to 29 to 90 years in prison for the 1998 slaying of a Tropicana casino security guard.

Jose F. Martin in April pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon and burglary with use of a deadly weapon. As part of the plea deal prosecutors dropped their intent to seek the death penalty, according to court records.

Justice was a long time coming for the family of 44-year-old Elroy Arokium.

The shooting occurred in February 1998 after Martin was involved in a fight at a dance party at the Tropicana. According to Las Vegas police, the fight was broken up by hotel security, and Martin was thrown out of the party.

Martin was angered over his treatment and returned with a gun. He repeatedly shot Arokium in the back, authorities said. Arokium was not involved in the earlier fight.

Martin fled to Mexico, where he was arrested but successfully fought extradition. Then in 2004 Martin was arrested in San Francisco, where he was working as a cook.

For the next six years Martin sat in the Clark County Detention Center awaiting his capital murder trial, maintaining his innocence throughout.

During a sentencing hearing Wednesday, Martin's attorneys read a letter he wrote to Judge Jennifer Togliatti apologizing to the victim's family and taking responsibility for the crime.

Martin said he was drunk and high on drugs and doesn't remember exactly what happened that night a dozen years ago. He said before he was thrown out of the Tropicana he was attacked and beaten by more than 10 security guards.

"I ask God to forgive me for all the things I have done wrong," Martin's letter stated.

Prosecutors called Arokium the "most innocent of victims" because he wasn't even around when Martin was first kicked out of the Tropicana.

In a heart wrenching moment, Arokium's sister, Elva Arokium Vickerie was overcome with emotion and wailed, with tears streaming down her face while attempting to address Togliatti.

She started to describe her brother, a native of Georgetown, Guyana, as a quiet man and a good father.

But Vickerie soon became hysterical and told Togliatti, "Whatever you decide. I miss him so much."

Martin was given credit for more than seven years he's already served in jail.

The kidnapping count arose from Martin using a gun to force two people to drive him away from the scene of the crime.

Those victims were not injured.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review or 702-380-1039.