Key witness in Tina Tournai Sandoval murder case dies
February 23, 2017
John Sandoval, faces a second trial in the death of his estranged wife, Tina Tournai Sandoval, in October 1995. He will return to court at 4 p.m. March 7, at which time attorneys will discuss how to proceed with the case, and potentially set a trial date. He remains in Weld County Jail.
To learn more about the case against John Sandoval, read “In Tina’s Shadow,” by Sharon Dunn. The book, which chronicles the death of Tina Tournai Sandoval, and the 2010 trial in which John Sandoval was convicted of murder, is available in paperback and on Kindle through Amazon.
A key witness in a longstanding Greeley murder case died this week.
Jesse Martinez, 52, died Tuesday in Greeley.
Martinez was the cousin of John Sandoval, 52, who was convicted in 2010 of murdering his estranged wife, Tina Tournai Sandoval, 15 years prior. She disappeared Oct. 19, 1995, just three months after they had separated. She was going to his house for one last visit to settle a debt, and she was never seen again.
Though her body was never found, there were no witnesses, and no confession, Sandoval was convicted in her death after a jury deliberated for seven hours following the monthlong trial. The case was recently overturned in the Colorado Court of Appeals based on two errors committed at trial the court believed may have prejudiced the jury and violated Sandoval's right to a fair trial.
It will be retried this year in Weld District Court.
Martinez is the second key witness in the case to die. Sandoval's mother, Mary Lou, died in January 2016. Martinez was the only member of Sandoval's family who willingly testified against him for the prosecution. A new jury likely will hear testimony from both through courtroom transcripts.
Weld County Coroner Carl Blesch said there was nothing suspicious in Martinez's death, stating it was "completely natural."
Martinez was not only Sandoval's cousin, he was his best friend — at least until Tina Sandoval died. At the time, the couple had been growing apart, and she and Martinez had been growing closer. Martinez was convinced of Sandoval's guilt from the beginning.
A month before Tina left her husband, she began a relationship with Martinez.
At trial, he told the jury that he was in love with Tina. He said she had told him if anything ever happened to her, it was at her husband's hands.
Martinez also helped the prosecution build on the theory that Sandoval was stalking his wife after she left him, which was a key theory in the case. Prosecutors believed Sandoval's stalking behavior led to her death because he couldn't stand to be without her.
Defense attorneys in the case intimated that Martinez may have been involved in Tina's disappearance or even was an alternative suspect.
On the stand, they accused Martinez of withholding information, asking his ex-wife to be his alibi and changing his testimony to suit the prosecution's theory.
Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke would not comment Thursday when asked about the loss of Martinez in the case.
Arrangements are through Mark's Funeral Service. No services are scheduled.