Former Rays minor-leaguer found guilty of triple homicide

Brandon Martin, a former first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, has been convicted of the murders of three people in Corona, Calif., in 2015. According to the Office of the District Attorney of Riverside County, the jury deliberated for four hours over two days before finding Martin, 27, guilty of the murder of his disabled father, Michael Martin; his uncle, Rickey Andersen, and Barry Swanson, an ADT alarm installer who happened to be in the house at the time. He was also convicted of evading arrest, resisting arrest, stealing an auto and injuring a police dog. Martin is eligible for the death penalty, which is being sought by DA Mike Hestrin in the case.

UPDATE: Brandon Martin has been sentenced to life in prison, and he is not eligible for parole.

Brandon Willie Martin was born on August 24, 1993, in Anaheim, Calif., and went to school at Santiago High School in Corona. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays as a shortstop in the First Round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft as a compensation pick. He was the 38th overall player taken in the draft and was compared favorably to Derek Jeter.

Martin’s first couple of seasons in Rookie League were unspectacular. He batted .255 for the Gulf Coast Rays in 2011 and then dropped down to a .209 average with the Princeton (W.V.) Rays of the Appalachian League in 2012, though he did hit 10 home runs in 63 games.

According to an article in the Mercury News, Martin’s off-field habits were starting to cause problems. He had been given a bonus by the Rays –said to be $860,000, though reports varied — and rented a 6,700-square-foot home in Yorba Linda. Police were called to the home 19 times due to loud parties, underage drinking, fighting and alleged drug use. Martin was arrested twice for disturbing the peace.

Brandon Martin as a member of the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Source: The Park City Daily News, August 23, 2013.

Martin’s behavior started to affect his baseball career in 2013. He fractured his thumb in spring training and didn’t start playing until May 29, as a member of the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Class-A Midwest League. He debuted by hitting 2-run home runs in each game of a doubleheader against Lake County. But he hit just .206 with 7 home runs in 73 games. More importantly, he was said to be disrespectful toward his coaches and was eventually sent home after repeated failed drug tests for marijuana.

Martin was also removed from a January 2014 instructional camp due to his continued disrespect and use of profanity toward his coaches. A month later, he broke a finger while assaulting his older brother. The Rays suspended him for the remainder of the 2014 season and released him in March of 2015.

Martin moved home with his parents in 2015 but allegedly continued the drug use and violent behavior. According to a 2016 article in The Desert Sun, Martin also exhibited “racially charged” hatred toward his father, who was black. On September 15, Corona police took Martin to the Riverside County Department of Mental Health for emergency treatment. The reasons differed; prosecutors stated that he made threats against his father, while a subsequent lawsuit stated that he threatened his mother with a pair of scissors and said he couldn’t play baseball as long as his parents were alive. The policeman who came to the house deemed him a threat to others.

Martin should have been held for 72 hours, but he was released after two days, on September 17 at 1:23pm, because of a lack of space in the facility. Martin’s mother, Melody, called ADT to install a security system before her son could get home. Martin arrived in the middle of the installation and assaulted his victims with a black baseball bat engraved with his name. That was around 6pm — less than five hours after he had been discharged from the hospital.

Michael Martin, 64 and confined to a wheelchair, was killed instantly with a blow to the head. Barry Swanson, 62, attempted to intervene and was also hit with the bat. They were both declared dead at the scene. Rickey Andersen, 58, was hit from behind and dragged into the garage. He fell into a coma and died two days later.

The bodies of the three men were discovered by Brandon Martin’s cousin, who called 911, reported the District Attorney’s office. Martin stole Swanson’s Ford Raptor pickup. The next day, Corona police spotted the pickup and Martin led them on a pursuit in Corona. At the end of the vehicle pursuit, Martin ditched the truck and fled on foot. In his attempt to evade officers, he broke into a home where he jumped from a second-story window. Corona police sent a police canine to detain Martin. After fighting with the canine, Martin was arrested.

Articles written about Martin after the murders indicated odd behavior going back to his Little League days. The behavior spiraled out of control once he had the bonus money and had moved away from his parents. “We were doing cocaine, drinking all the time… Then it was more coke, more coke for him,” a former roommate told the Los Angeles Times. His personality could flip from joking to aggressive and sullen so quickly that his friends gave the dangerous personality its own name — George. When he had to move in with his parents, he lashed out at them both physically. The family tried to get a restraining order on him but did not show for the court date. On the day of the murders, the family pleaded to have him kept in the facility, but the doctor who evaluated him said he “no longer met the criteria for ongoing involuntary detention.”

Martin has been jailed without bond since his arrest. He pleaded not guilty to the murders, and his lawyers cited his severe mental illness. Sentencing deliberations are to begin on November 9.

If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center.

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