Interrogation video dominates third day of murder trial


Defense lawyer Eric Atria speaks to his client, Maranda Martin, 23, during the third day of her murder trial in the case of Paul Quandt, who died at age 78 from injuries he sustained when two people invaded his Blues Creek home on January 9, 2012 to rob him, shown at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 10:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 10:18 p.m.

On Jan. 10, 2012, Maranda Martin sat in a purple chair in a small, wood-paneled room.

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Defense lawyer Eric Atria speaks to his client, Maranda Martin, 23, during the third day of her murder trial in the case of Paul Quandt, who died at age 78 from injuries he sustained when two people invaded his Blues Creek home on January 9, 2012 to rob him, shown at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer

For seven hours, three Gainesville Police Department detectives took turns interrogating her about a home invasion the previous night in the Blues Creek neighborhood in Gainesville.

The robbery led to a three-car wreck, and Austin Jones, 23, and Martin, 23, were arrested. The victim, Paul Quandt, 78, died on Jan. 18 when he was removed from life support.

Martin was a former home health care worker for Quandt, who suffered a debilitating brain injury during the home invasion from repeated blows to his face and head.

On Wednesday, state prosecutors played the entire interrogation video in court during the third day of Martin's murder trial. She faces 8 charges — including charges of murder, robbery, kidnapping and grand theft. Jones' trial has not been set.

GPD detective Randy Roberts was conciliatory during the January 2012 interrogation. He took time to listen and offer condolence. At one point, he noticed a cut on Martin's wrist.

"Did you do that?" he asks. "Why would you do that?"

"Because I'm a really depressed person," Martin, 23, said in the video. She told Roberts she knows she made a mistake and she just wants to give up on life because she has too many problems.

"Everybody has a chance at happiness, and you deserve that," Roberts said. "And it breaks my heart to hear that you want to give up. Please don't give up. … Right now things look dark and bleak, but with time things will get better."

Martin, who drove with her mom to meet with detectives, has been incarcerated ever since.

In the courtroom on Wednesday, the video of her interview played directly behind her. At one point, she buried her face in her hands and the woman behind her did the same.

Judge Mark Moseley presided over the dim courtroom. The prosecutors in the case argued Martin was a principal in the crime, even if she never put her hands on Quandt. Defense lawyer Eric Atria argued for a manslaughter charge; if convicted on that charge instead, Martin likely wouldn't spend the rest of her life in prison.

The interview process last January was tedious. Roberts systematically brought up the inconsistencies in Martin's remarks, and she changed her story 13 times, by authorities' count. First, she was at her mom's house. Then she said she dropped Jones off on 13th Street that night. Then she told police she was checking on her boyfriend. Another version had her driving by Quandt's house in November to show Jones where it was (Jones was in jail at that time, according to prosecutors).

Slowly, detectives say they got her closer and closer to the truth, until she finally admitted, after numerous cigarette and coffee breaks, that she was in the house the night of the home invasion — wearing a red Elmo mask.

Some of the information detectives told her was untrue. They said they had video in the house of a man and a woman — they did not — but they did know Martin destroyed a surveillance camera in Quandt's home. Also, they insinuated that Jones might be telling them what happened and incriminating her, but he was actually in a coma after the accident.

Around six hours into the interrogation, Detective Will Halvosa entered the room. He did not share Roberts' soft tone. He was direct and concise in his questioning — and more authoritative.

He asked her what Jones called Quandt while he beat him.

"Old dumb man," she said.

"Did Austin tie him up?" Halvosa asked.

"I guess," she said.

"What was Mr. Paul saying when you and Austin tied him up?"

"I'll give you everything you want," she recalled. "Please don't hurt me."

"Was he saying it over and over?" Halvosa asked. "So he was pleading for his life?"

"Yes," she said quietly.

"What are you feeling right now?" Halvosa asked.

"I let something bad happen to someone who didn't deserve it," she said, "and I should have stopped it."

She then told Halvosa that she stepped up on the kitchen counter and grabbed Quandt's security camera and pulled it down and threw it. She said she helped load up Quandt's car with boxes of Quandt's stuff. She said Quandt was tied up on the ground and Jones would punch him as they walked back and forth.

They left to use Quandt's bank cards and exceeded the daily limit, she said. When they returned to the house, they split up. She took her own car, and Jones took Quandt's. Police spotted Jones leaving the neighborhood soon after.

Martin told police she spent the night crying in her room. She also did an Internet search on her phone for the same model surveillance camera in Quandt's house, and if it recorded.

At the end of the video, she lay down under the small table in the interrogation room on the floor.

The prosecution rested its case on Wednesday night, and Martin did not decide if she would take the stand today. If she does, she will be the only witness for the defense.

The trial is expected to last through today, with closing arguments from both sides.

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