Crime lab: Martinez evidence is ‘being analyzed’
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — On Nov. 3, Denise King Martinez caught fire behind the County Six Bar. She died as a result of her injuries a few days later.
Beyond these basic facts, information about what really happened to Martinez that night remains elusive.
A conclusion to the case — and closure for the family — rests upon one piece of evidence that has been at the Wyoming State Crime Lab since Nov. 10.
For nine months, the Crime Lab has held onto this evidence, and the Rawlins Police Department has awaited the results of its analysis of remnants of Martinez’ burned clothing.
On Wednesday, John Jolley, deputy director of the Wyoming State Crime Lab, confirmed that his agency still has the evidence in its possession.
“I believe it is in the possession of the analyst,” he said.
Police Chief Troy Palmer said Wednesday that he knew months ago that the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, the instrument used to analyze burned or charred items, had been out of working order.
“It has been up and down for repairs, yes,” Jolley said, but he added that the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer was currently operational.
“The evidence is being analyzed,” Jolley said.
Jolley said “primarily just one” staff person is trained to use that piece of equipment.
The delay in processing the evidence was related to the caseload at the Crime Lab, Jolley said.
“Some of it is just a backlog of casework,” he said. Jolley said that the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer is also used to look at fire debris.
Jolley declined to offer a timeline for when the lab would complete its work in the Martinez case.
Palmer confirmed Wednesday that he believes an accelerant was used in the fire.
“We’re pretty sure there was an accelerant, we’re just wondering what kind. We’re hoping that with results we can pinpoint to a specific accelerant,” he said.
If an accelerant was used, then one important question remains — did Martinez douse herself or did someone pour it on her?
“At this point in time we have no evidence that points to a specific person,” Palmer said.
But he also reiterated his earlier statement that Martinez’ death was an “isolated incident,” and that there was no concern for public safety as a result.
Carbon County Coroner Paul Zamora previously said he plans to conduct a public inquest once the evidence and the Crime Lab’s report is returned to the Rawlins Police Department.
“Everybody’s just waiting for the inquest so we can put closure to it,” Palmer said.