Christina Martin

Bristol County, Massachusetts
Date of Alleged Crime:  January 21, 1990

Christina Martin was convicted of murdering her boyfriend, Richard Alfredo, 61. Alfredo died in his home after a long history of heart disease. Initially, it was assumed the disease was the cause of his death and no autopsy was performed. Alfredo's assets worth about $25,000 went to his estranged wife and her children while Martin and her children continued to live in the home she had shared with Alfredo. Four weeks after Alfredo's death, rumors surfaced that Alfredo was poisoned. Martin's daughter had told high school friends that Alfredo had made sexual advances toward her, and that her mother got revenge by serving him Jell-O laced with LSD.

LSD is an illicit hallucinogen and can cause a rapid increase in heart rate. Such an increase can be fatal to someone with a diseased heart like Alfredo's. Alfredo's body was exhumed and tests indicated the presence of LSD. The medical examiner then ruled the death a homicide and listed the cause of death as “Acute LSD Intoxication.” When police went to arrest Martin, they found that she and her daughter had fled, but phone records indicated they two were in Montreal, Canada, where they were captured.

At Martin's trial, the judge took her lawyer aside for not cross-examining forensic witnesses, but the lawyer assured him that he would defend against such testimony later, which he never did. A local drug dealer also testified that he sold 30 doses of LSD to a small group that included Martin and her daughter. Seven years after Martin's conviction, her new lawyer, Kevin Mahoney, a public defender, went to the courthouse to get her case file. While there, he struck up a conversation with a prosecutor about the case. The prosecutor told him to look very closely at the official cause of death.

Mahoney found out from a pharmacologist that there had never been a case reported where a person had died from the direct effects of LSD. Therefore, the listed cause of death was very unlikely. Secondly, the test kit used to determine the presence of LSD was designed only for fresh urine samples, not cadaver tissue. It contained a warning label that it gave a preliminary result and required confirmation by tests that are more accurate. Mahoney then found out that the prosecution had performed multiple confirmatory tests but they all came back negative. The prosecution was required by the Brady Doctrine to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense without being asked, but it had violated this rule.

On appeal, Martin got a new trial. Rather than remain in prison while awaiting a new trial, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for time served. She maintained her innocence.  [12/06]


Reference:  Forensic Files

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Massachusetts Cases, Husband Murder Cases