By Larry Judkins
Glenn County Observer
Reporters generally try to avoid becoming part of the stories they cover.
Unfortunately, that can’t always be done. Consider this incident, for example:
At about 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2019, this reporter, who was still with The Sacramento Valley Mirror at the time, was alone in the newspaper office on West Sycamore Street in Willows. I had just finished typing up the Glenn County Jail’s booking reports for Saturday’s edition of the paper, and one of the entries read:
“Tuesday, April 2:
“2 a.m., Elizabeth Ashley Martin, 22, a laborer and transient, was booked into the Glenn County Jail on charges alleging using or being under the influence of a controlled substance (a misdemeanor). Bail was set at $3,000. She was taken into custody at 745 Paigewood Drive by an Orland police officer.”
I had left my van in the parking lot directly across the street from The Valley Mirror office. As I applied the last few keystrokes to the booking reports, I heard a car door slam.
The noise had come from the direction of the parking lot. I looked out the office windows and saw what appeared to be a person sitting in the driver’s seat of my 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan.
Since no one should have been in my van, I did a “double-take,” wondering if this was indeed my vehicle, or if I had actually parked in a different location in the parking lot. Nope, I decided upon further inspection, this was definitely my van.
At about the same time that I stepped out the office door and started to walk across the street, the person in the van got out and raised the hood. The person, now seen to be a woman, attached the battery cable to the battery post (why it had been disconnected will be explained shortly), and walked back to the driver’s side door.
By this time, I was across the street. “What are you doing with my van?” I demanded to know.
“This isn’t your van,” the woman answered. “This is my van.”
I was absolutely, 100 percent certain that this was not her van, and I let the woman know this. As if she could somehow convince me that this was not the case, she stubbornly repeated her claim that it was her vehicle.
In fact, this exchange was repeated two or three times. At one point, she looked down at the license plate, read it aloud, and stated, “Yes, this is my car!”
She also claimed that someone had earlier told her that “her car” was in the parking lot, and she could “pick it up.” At about this time, I pulled out my cell phone and called 911.
She said something like, “Fine. I’ll just wait here for the cops to arrive and we’ll get this all straightened out.” She began to slowly walk away.
Interrupting my 911 call, I told her, “You stay right here!” I then asked her for her name.
I didn’t catch her first name, although I thought she said “Ellie,” but her last name she definitely gave as “Martinez.” As she walked farther away, she asked, “If this is your car, then why is it so fucked up?”
This question itself raises a couple of additional questions. First, why was the woman under the impression that I could not be the owner of a vehicle that was in less than pristine condition?
And second, why did the woman apparently believe that if a vehicle is in less than pristine condition, then it is hers for the taking?
Frankly, I am quite fond of my van. In fact, it is my second favorite vehicle I have ever owned, right behind my previous minivan. My first Caravan was (until it unexpectedly gave out on me) more reliable than my Grand Caravan, but the Grand Caravan has more “personality.”
Warped personality, yes, but personality nonetheless.
Claiming now that she had made a mistake, the woman walked rapidly away, around the north side of the old Daughtrey’s department store building. When she reached Tehama Street, she shouted some obscenities and began to run north.
As she disappeared around the corner of the Redding Bank of Commerce (formerly the Bank of America, presently the Merchants Bank of Commerce), I told the 911 dispatcher what direction the woman was headed, and what she was wearing. A moment later, I saw a Glenn County Sheriff’s patrol vehicle headed in that direction.
I had followed the woman only as far as the northwest corner of Daughtrey’s, then I walked back to my van and waited for a deputy. Deputy Ricardo Ramirez soon arrived and I told him what had happened.
During the recounting of the recent events, it was explained that after my previous van had “kicked the bucket,” the sympathetic owners of an area auto dealership had more or less given me my current van. The only catch with this extraordinary act of generosity was that the van had previously been stolen from the car lot and had been stripped by the thieves prior to the vehicle’s recovery.
At the time of the later attempted theft, the Caravan was missing its heating and air conditioning system, as well as its stereo. More importantly, the ignition system was damaged, along with much of the wiring in the vehicle – hence, the reason the battery cable had to be disconnected, so that the faulty electronics didn’t draw down the charge of the battery.
This, of course, is why the van was “so fucked up.”
Deputy Ramirez and Deputy Troy McIntyre said that they caught the woman on the other side of the bank. I asked who she is, and they answered, “Elizabeth Martin.”
They said that she had just been released from the jail, and that she tried to take my van in order to get back to Orland. Yes, this was the same Elizabeth Martin who was booked into the jail on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
She was booked back into the jail on a felony charge of attempted vehicle theft.
I did not hear anything further about Elizabeth Martin and figured I probably never would. Then, a few weeks ago, a Glenn County probation officer called me.
He explained that Martin was scheduled to be sentenced for the attempted theft of my van on Friday, Dec. 17. He told me that I could attend the proceedings if I so desired.
On Dec. 17, she was convicted of felony attempted automobile theft. She was sentenced to four months in prison, consecutive to a Tehama County seven-year, four-month prison sentence she is currently serving. The Glenn County case was prosecuted by District Attorney Dwayne Stewart, with assistance from Glenn County Sheriff’s Deputy Ramirez.
After Martin attempted to steal my minivan, but before she was sentenced for the same incident, she engaged in other types of antisocial behavior.
The case began when Martin allegedly broke into an apartment in Corning and stole the victim’s Chihuahua. At the time of her arrest, she was in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Martin pleaded guilty to both charges and was sentenced to probation. She violated her probation by cutting off her ankle monitor and throwing it into a river and leaving the area, which led to her arrest for escaping custody, according to the Tehama County District Attorney’s Office.
On Dec. 21, 2019, Corning police arrested Martin after making a traffic stop on the vehicle she was driving because a stolen license plate had been placed on it. At that time, she was booked into the Tehama County Jail on the sentencing charges and $15,000 bail.
On March 26, 2020, Martin was sentenced in Tehama County Superior Court to seven years and four months in state prison. She was found guilty of felony first degree burglary, felony possession of a stolen vehicle, felony escape from custody, and felony falsifying a registration card/license plate or evidence of vehicle ownership.
Martin is currently serving her sentence in the women’s prison in Chowchilla.
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