Problem Solvers investigation: Possible murder target kicked out of witness protection

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Although Charles Martinez said he's committed a lot of crimes in his life,  murder isn't one of them.

"I robbed 14 banks when I was 20 years old. Here in Metro Denver spent 15 years in federal prison,"  Martinez told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

But the 41-year-old said he never expected to be asked to commit murder when he was sitting in the Arapahoe County Detention Center on an outstanding traffic warrant in the Spring of 2018.  That's when he says his 54-year-old cellmate James Reed offered Martinez $15,000 dollars to kill Reed's wife.

"I told him my background and I believe that’s the reason he thought that I had the capacity to murder his wife, which is what he asked me to do," Martinez said.

Martinez said Reed told him his wife was "draining him financially."

Court records show Reed was going through a bitter divorce with a mandatory protection order in place.  Perhaps more importantly, Reed was arrested in August of 2017 on 14 charges, including sexual assault by force, false  imprisonment, sexual assault on a helpless victim, extortion and child abuse.

Martinez said yes to Reed, but secretly tipped off sheriff deputies at the jail.

"I couldn’t just say no and walk away from the situation because I did know that he would find somebody else in a place like that," Martinez said.

Reed would soon face new charges of solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  Around the same  time, Martinez learned Reed had put out a hit on him.

"Having the cops knock on my door at 3 in the morning, saying people are looking for you to murder you is really overwhelming," remembered Martinez.

At the time, Martinez was living in Thornton when he said police told him Reed offered to pay the bonds of other inmates, Matthew Trujillo and Brandon Huffman. Court records and law enforcement sources confirm to the Problem Solvers that Reed's alleged plan was to have one of his new hires track down Martinez and kill him so that Martinez couldn't testify against Reed.

"They (law enforcement) told me if you give up your apartment and your small business, and basically say goodbye to everybody, we will put you in witness protection," said Martinez who agreed to the plan.  Martinez told the Problem Solvers he was living at a hotel in Centennial until it was time to testify, when just a month later he was kicked out of witness protection for using meth.

"They knew the person I was.  I didn't meet James Reed in church. I didn't meet him in a college class, I met him in jail," said Martinez who acknowledged he's struggled with substance abuse much of his life.

The Arapahoe County District Attorney's office won't comment on Martinez or its decision to kick him out of the Witness Protection Program because of the pending criminal case against James Reed.  But Fox 31 has learned Reed could enter a guilty plea at his arraignment Friday, though it's not clear on what charges.

Martinez said he felt used by prosecutors, whom he suspected used the threat of his testimony to work out a plea deal with Reed, yet wouldn't give him a second chance in witness protection after he was caught using drugs.

"I feel very wronged because for the first time in my life I trusted law enforcement to do me right and they did me totally wrong ," Martinez said before admitting there was a certain irony in getting kicked out of witness protection.

He acknowledged it finally forced him to get clean and give up drugs.

"It cleaned my life up," he said. "I am walking on a higher ground now."

In April, Martinez decided to turn himself into the Denver Detention Center to serve time for prior traffic warrants.  He spent a month in custody before being transferred to the Adams County Jail to serve additional time for outstanding traffic warrants in that jurisdiction.

He is set for release in August. Martinez still faces charges in Douglas County of theft and forgery for a crime allegedly committed on his last day in witness protection. Investigators said they didn't discover the alleged crime until after he was kicked out.

Martinez said he could've worked a deal to stay on a lengthy probation but would rather serve time now to put his past behind him.  The former gang member knows his decision surrounded him with bad people again but insists this time he is one of the good guys, even if Arapahoe County Prosecutors wouldn't give him a second chance in witness protection.

"I think they've lost perspective about what this whole thing is about and it was about saving this woman's life and putting a bad man away for the rest of his," Martinez said.

If Reed does plead guilty on Friday, prosecutors won't need Martinez to testify.  But Martinez told FOX31 he still would if needed, not so much to help prosecutors but to help Reed's ex-wife.

As for Trujillo, he pleaded guilty on May 31, but not for intentions to murder Charles Martinez, despite his arrest in June of 2018 for murder after deliberation/conspiracy and witness intimidation. Instead, he was sentenced to six years at the Department of Corrections for a prior unrelated charge of assaulting a police officer.

Huffman entered a guilty plea June 3.  Just like Trujillo, his charge of murder after deliberation/conspiracy was dismissed.   Instead he pleaded guilty to a prior unrelated crime of aggravated robbery.  He will be sentenced in August.

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