SEATTLE — Brett Gitchel was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the killing of Leticia Martinez.
Family members confirmed Martinez's body was found in Renton by Seattle police over a week ago. Gitchel is also charged with the kidnapping and attempted murder of Martinez's son, and for setting Martinez's Honda CR-V on fire.
Gitchel entered a "not guilty" plea on Monday to all charges. The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office previously asked the court to set Gitchel's bail at $5 million.
Amended charging documents also spelled out how police found Gitchel and what details guided the search for Martinez's body.
Martinez was last seen alive with Gitchel on March 31 at a Seattle Mariners game. Family members said she met Gitchel at the Costco food court and they exchanged information. She invited him to the game because he was wearing a Mariners sweatshirt and she had free tickets.
The day after Martinez disappeared, friends and family reported receiving text messages from her phone that were "odd and uncharacteristic." A police report said the author of the messages could not be verified. Investigators tracked down her phone calls and learned that she called Gitchel's number before the Mariners game on March 31 and around 6:15 a.m. on April 1.
Martinez's brother said multiple calls went unanswered and were eventually routed straight to voicemail. Martinez's brother filed a missing persons report with the King County Sheriff's Office on April 2.
Police said that same night, Gitchel went to Martinez's house and kidnapped her son and later attempted to strangle him after driving around south King County for a couple of hours.
Martinez's son told investigators he was woken up in the middle of the night by someone knocking on his bedroom door. He said an unknown man told him his mother had been in an accident and that he was going to take him to go see her at the hospital.
The son told investigators the man, identified as Gitchel by police, drove him around for hours before stopping somewhere in Renton. The son said Gitchel attempted to strangle him with "an unknown type of material."
Martinez's son escaped the vehicle and called 911 while Gitchel fled the area, according to investigators.
Police found Martinez's Honda CR-V on fire about two hours later that night. Investigators said surveillance footage showed Gitchel went inside a nearby Shell station to buy a portable gas canister and a lighter in two separate purchases. The purchases were about 30 minutes before Martinez' car was found on fire, according to charging documents.
Police were able to obtain Gitchel's phone records from Verizon using a search warant. Detectives analyzed the historical data about the phone's location to track his movements. According to those records, his phone activity is consistent with the story her son told of his abduction, as well as the location and time Martinez's car was burned.
Police said surveillance video from another Costco captured Gitchel driving Martinez' car around and filling it up with fuel days before her car was found.
Gitchel was taken into custody on April 4 at a Costco after he was identified by an employee for wearing the same clothes and matching the description as a suspect in a theft incident the day before.
Gitchel told police he didn’t know where Martinez was, adding that she ran into another man at the end of the game and left with him.
Authorities started searching for Martinez' body on April 6 and she was found five days later on April 11. Investigators used Gitchel's phone records to narrow their search for her. The area of South 192nd Street between Talbot Road South and state Route 167 was selected because records showed Gitchel was there for approximately 20 minutes on April 1, just a couple of hours before he entered the family's home.
The area was deemed "of interest" because it was lightly populated, heavily wooded, close to where Gitchel strangled the son, and Gitchel previously lived nearby, charging documents said.
The King County Medical Examiner determined Martinez, who was found partially buried, died from strangulation. Her death was ruled a homicide.
The next pre-trial hearing for Gitchel will be held on May 15.