When a 50-year-old woman noticed the slender man following her in the early morning hours of April 15, she instinctively picked up a rock and called 911 from her cellphone.
Her instincts – and the cellphone – would prove crucial in catching the man accused of two of the most horrific killings in Las Vegas history.
The man, identified by police as 22-year-old Bryan Clay, chased the woman nearly half a mile. He caught her near the intersection of Vegas and Tonopah drives and dragged her into the tall weeds off a darkened desert lot.
It was a brief yet brutal encounter: Clay punched, choked and sexually assaulted the woman, according to a police report released Monday.
But the woman fought back, striking Clay in the face with the rock. When police sirens sounded about 2 a.m. that Sunday, Clay snatched the cellphone and fled, leaving behind a Cleveland Indians baseball cap, the report said.
Sometime in the next hour, Las Vegas police said, Clay traveled the half-mile to the Martinez family home at 1016 Robin St. and killed 38-year-old Ignacia "Yadira" Martinez and 10-year-old Karla Martinez with a claw hammer. Police said Karla Martinez was raped, and police were still investigating whether Ignacia Martinez was also raped, the report said.
The family patriarch, Arturo Martinez, 39, was struck at least three times in the head and his skull was fractured in at least two places, the report said. He has been hospitalized and unable to communicate since the attacks.
The only thing left behind by the assailant was a jacket wrapped in a black T-shirt, discarded in the street and found by a neighbor at 3 a.m. The neighbor told police he assumed the jacket belonged to Arturo Martinez and put the clothing into the bed of Martinez’s pickup.
Clay, who police said did not know any of the victims, was arrested early Friday morning after police raided his mother’s house.
He did not confess to the crimes but did not deny being involved, telling detectives "he did not remember what happened" after a night of drinking alcohol and taking drugs, including Ecstasy and cigarettes dipped in PCP, the report said.
Both drugs have been known to produce hallucinations, and significant doses of PCP have been known to cause paranoia and aggressive behavior.
The Martinez family’s two surviving children, boys ages 9 and 4, were also in the house on the morning of April 16, more than 24 hours after police believe the attacks occurred. The grisly scene was uncovered after the 9-year-old walked to school and told a counselor his mom and sister were dead and his father had two holes in his head.
When police arrived, they found the 4-year-old boy crying inside the home and the dead victims in separate bedrooms.
"I’ve been doing this 24 years, and this is the case you hope you never see," Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said at a late-night Friday news conference. "This is the kind of case that goes on that they write movies about. And I don’t say that as to be an entertainment factor. I’m saying this was a savage, heinous crime."
In an interview with detectives, Clay said "he could not deny the evidence being laid out before him so he must have done what detectives were saying he did," the report said. Clay said that the baseball cap and jacket found at the crime scenes belonged to him.
Clay also said that police should have killed him instead of arresting him, the report said. He then thanked detectives for their professionalism.
His arrest came after a furious two-week police investigation that saw up to 60 people at a time working the case around the clock.
The first break in the case came on April 23, when detectives learned that DNA linked the Martinez family killings to the earlier assault of the 50-year-old woman. But although police knew the DNA at the two scenes matched, they did not immediately know to whom it belonged.
Clay became the prime suspect after police discovered the sexual assault victim’s stolen cellphone had been used several times immediately after the attack, the report said.
Several acquaintances of "Junior," as Clay was known to family and friends, received calls from the woman’s phone within a half hour of the assault, the report said.
Police then went looking for Clay, a transient who was known to stay with various friends around the valley. They found him on Friday when his mother, Latasha White, called police and said her son was sleeping at her home. White had known police were looking for him, the report said.
On Friday afternoon, police received results of Clay’s DNA test. It matched the DNA found at both crime scenes. A thumbprint found at the Martinez home also matched Clay.
Clay’s mother and grandmother expressed shock about the arrest when contacted by the Review-Journal last week.
Margaret Brown, Clay’s grandmother, said she didn’t believe he could be guilty of rape or murder.
"I can’t see it or imagine it in a million years," she said. "The only way they’ll make me believe that is if they prove it, and it’s always innocent until proven guilty."
White, who told the Review-Journal that her son rarely stayed at her home or spoke with her, said she felt sympathy for the Martinez family.
"No matter who is responsible, I apologize to the (Martinez) family," White said on Sunday. "I apologize to anyone that was hurt."
Clay, who had a warrant for felony child abuse and a history of arrests for domestic violence against his girlfriend, will appear in court on those charges today . A hearing related to the slayings is scheduled for Wednesday. The charges Clay faces include two counts of murder with a deadly weapon and two counts of sexual assault against a victim under 14. Other charges may be filed.
Clay was initially suspected of a third sex crime, which happened April 23 when a 30-year-old woman was attacked near Rancho Drive and Bonanza Road. The woman was hit in the head with an object but was able to fight off the man, police said. There was no DNA evidence in that case, and Steiber said there was no evidence to link Clay to the crime.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.Timeline: How murder case unfolded
At 1:56 a.m., a 50-year-old woman calls 911 and says a man is following her near Tonopah and Vegas drives. The woman is then sexually assaulted by the man, described as a young black man with a small build. He drops a baseball cap and takes her cellphone as patrol cars approach.
After 2 a.m.: Several calls are made from the woman’s cellphone: one at 2:08 a.m., two at 2:09 a.m., and another at 2:20 a.m. The three recipients later tell police the caller was "Junior," which is the family nickname for then-21-year-old Bryan Clay.
About 3 a.m., a neighbor of the Martinez family finds a jacket wrapped around a black T-shirt on his truck. Assuming the jacket belongs to Arturo Martinez, the neighbor puts it in the bed of Martinez’s pickup.
Between 2 and 4 a.m., police think an assailant enters the Martinez home at 1016 Robin St. and kills Ignacia "Yadira" Martinez and Karla Martinez with a claw hammer. Arturo Martinez is severely beaten.
At 8:45 a.m. a 9-year-old boy walks to school and tells a counselor his mother and sister are dead and his father is injured. Police respond to the home on Robin Street more than 24 hours after the attacks and find the boy’s 4-year-old brother, who is unharmed.
About noon, a local television station runs a false report implicating Arturo Martinez in the deaths. Later that afternoon, a police spokesman says there is no evidence a killer is on the loose.
April 17: An autopsy on Karla Martinez reveals she was beaten to death and raped.
April 18: An autopsy is unable to determine whether Ignacia Martinez was raped.
April 23: Police learn the DNA evidence in the assault of the 50-year-old woman and the Martinez family slayings are linked. Detectives start concentrating on the woman’s stolen cellphone records. Clay becomes the prime suspect.
April 25: Clay celebrates his 22nd birthday.
Latasha White, Bryan Clay’s mother, calls police and reports that her son is sleeping at her home. Police arrest Clay that morning on an unrelated felony child abuse warrant.
Clay tells detectives he doesn’t remember anything about the events on April 15 and claims to have taken Ecstasy and PCP the night before. He admits to wearing the baseball hat and jacket found at the crime scenes.
Police announce the arrest at a late-night news conference after DNA results confirm Clay’s involvement.
April 28: Clay is charged with sexual assault and murder .
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