July 24, 2015
By Michaelangelo Conte
Alishia Colon’s mother, Waleska Figueroa, tries to fight back tears as she testifies on Friday, May 1, 2015, during the trial of Cruz Martinez, of Hazleton, Pa., who is accused of killing Colon in her bedroom on Belgrove Drive in Kearny on Jan. 17, 2013. Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal
JERSEY CITY — The Pennsylvania man who executed a 16-year-old Kearny girl in cold blood as she sat in bed watching television with her 7-year-old brother in 2013 will die behind bars for his “heinous, cruel and depraved” crime.
Cruz Martinez, 44, a portly but still hulking man, was sentenced to life in prison by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Martha Royster in from of a dozen family and friend of the victim, Alishia Colon. Martinez would have to survive until the age of 107 to even be eligible for parole.
“What type of inhuman animal are you?” asked Waleska Figueroa, Alishia’s mother.
Alishia Colon was shot in the face by Martinez, 44, in her Belgrove Drive home on Jan. 17, 2013. Figueroa cried and was held by her mother as she told the judge today that Martinez “did not consider that she was an innocent child.”
“This year Alisha would have graduated high school, but you deprived her of that,” Figueroa said as family members and friends, wearing t-shirts with Alishia’s photo, grew emotional. “She never got a chance to attend her prom and she can no longer blow out her birthday candles. I can no longer see her beautiful smile. You took my flesh and blood – my daughter.”
Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Sal Rozzi told the court that life in prison was too good for Martinez, who murdered Alishia as revenge for an ongoing dispute with other members of her family.
“Quite frankly I wish I could ask for more than life,” Rozzi said. “This defendant should never see the light of day and I hope he doesn’t. … There truly was not a motive that any logical thinking person can understand.”
An unemotional and unrepentant Martinez maintained his innocence in his brief statement to the court today. Regarding Alishia’s death, he would only say he is “deeply sorry that a life was ended in this manner.”
His attorney, Scott Finckenauer, said he plans to file an appeal of the guilty verdict a jury reached in May.
There was heightened security at the hearing with about a dozen sheriff’s officers in the courtroom. People attending the sentencing had to pass through a metal detector at the entrance of the courtroom.
Earlier on the day Alishia was murdered, Kearny police responded to a street fight involving some of her relatives near her home. Following the fight, police arrested her uncle — 38-year-old Edwin Mendez of Belleville — charging him with making terroristic threats and a weapons offense related to a machete, officials said.
The prosecution said Martinez and Mendez were good friends, and that Martinez gathered up three friends and went to the Belgrove Drive home seeking to retaliate for the fight. There was testimony that Martinez wanted to “send a message.”
After breaking down the apartment door, Martinez found only Colon and her brother home. There was testimony that the girl pleaded for her life before being executed. The brother, now 9, testified at trial point out Martinez as the killer.
During the trial, Jamie Forlenzo, who also resided at the Belgrove Drive apartment, took the stand saying on the night of the homicide, Martinez told her he killed Colon.
“(Martinez) said, ‘Who was the younger girl that lived in the house on Belgrove?’ and I said the only younger girl was Alishia,” Forlenzo testified. “He said, ‘Well, she gone.’ I said what do you mean? He said, ‘I killed her’… He didn’t say why.”
Lamar D. Farrar, 24, of East Orange, Eric L. Shelton, 21, of Orange and Kyeeth L. Smith, 23, of Willingboro, were also charged in connection to the homicide and pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Farrar testified that on Jan. 17, 2013 he was at his home with Shelton when Martinez called saying a friend had been arrested and the pair decided to back him up in giving someone a beating.
Farrar testified that he, Martinez and Shelton walked up to Alishia’s second-floor apartment while Smith waited in the car. He said Martinez broke down the door and he walked into Colon’s bedroom. He heard someone say “No. Stop. Please!” before a single gunshot rang out.