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Man charged with 9 contract killings in California

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- A man described as a contract killer by California prosecutors was charged Tuesday with killing nine people in three counties over a span of more than 30 years.

Jose Manuel Martinez, 51, carried out a slaying spree between 1980 and 2011, targeting victims in Tulare, Kern and Santa Barbara counties, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz said.

Martinez has lived on and off in Richgrove, a small farming community in central California about 40 miles north of Bakersfield. He's now being held in Alabama, awaiting trial in a 2013 slaying, and Fultz said he's also wanted in Florida on suspicion of two killings there in 2006.

Attorney Michael Terry, who has represented Martinez in Alabama, did not immediately respond to a telephone message or email Tuesday evening.

The California charges make Martinez eligible for a death sentence, if he is convicted.

Fultz declined to say who investigators believe paid Martinez. Six of the victims were killed in Tulare County, two in Kern and one in Santa Barbara. They ranged in age from 22 to 56, investigators said.

Investigators had long sought answers to the slayings, and they received key information from Alabama authorities shortly after Martinez was arrested in June 2013, Fultz said. Tulare County detectives have visited Alabama three times since, the prosecutor said.

“They were able to then piece together the various murder cases we have filed,” he said.

In addition to the nine murder counts, Martinez was charged in California with one count of attempted murder and the special circumstances of committing multiple murders, lying in wait, kidnapping and murder for financial gain.

Fultz said authorities from the other California counties agreed to have Martinez tried in Tulare County.

Acting Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said in a news conference that the case is far from completed.

“While this case has been filed, there is plenty of work to be done,” he said.

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