ALAMOSA — He may not have pulled the trigger, but he knows who did, District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen told Alamosa County Judge Daniel Walzl on Friday during a preliminary hearing for Phillip Medina, 36, whose charges related to the August 2018 murder of Mathias Fritz, 40, were bound over to district court.
Sharing a portion of a recording from police body camera at a house occupied by Fritz’s acquaintances, Newmyer-Olsen pointed to the reactions of Medina and his half brother Robert Martinez, 29, when police told them Fritz had been killed. Martinez looked down, and Medina looked at Martinez.
“In this moment he knows,” Newmyer-Olsen said.
Martinez and three other codefendants including Medina are charged with murder and numerous other charges in connection with Fritz’s murder and the assault and shooting of Fritz’s girlfriend Alma Salazar at Fritz’s apartment on August 9, 2018. Salazar survived the shooting.
Medina had had dinner with the couple the night before the assault and murder, and he may have assisted his brother in entering the apartment later or been present when the assaults and shootings occurred, according to testimony related during Friday’s preliminary hearing.
Judge Walzl found there was probable cause to forward the case to district court, and Medina is scheduled for first appearance in district court on April 3. Charges against him include murder, aggravated robbery (based on complicity), conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and accessory to a crime.
Alamosa County Deputy Coroner Jeri Chacon testified on Friday about what process she went through on the early morning of August 9 at 175 1/2 Broadway where Fritz’s body was found in a shower stall in an upstairs bathroom. Chacon pronounced him deceased, and his positive identification was made during an autopsy the following day. She and the forensic pathologist created the subsequent death certificate which listed the cause of death as gunshot wound to the head and blunt force trauma injury.
Alamosa Police Corporal Ivan Garcia testified about assisting the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office in its investigation by going to a Tremont Avenue address where police believed associates of Fritz lived. A portion of the body camera recording from that residence was played in court. One of the people living at that address was Medina, and another was his half brother Martinez. In talking with the police that morning following the murder Medina said he had known Fritz since he was 13 and said he was a good guy who had no enemies. Medina told police Fritz and his girlfriend seemed happy as well, and he had cooked them tacos the night before. Medina told police that Fritz would open his home to a lot of people because that was the type of guy he was. “He tried to save everybody,” he said.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation Field Agent Kevin Torres also assisted the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office with interviews in the case, specifically with victim Alma Salazar and co-defendant Shawndon McVey. Salazar told Torres she and Fritz had dinner with someone the night of August 8 and she had seen him before but she did not remember his name. She told Torres she thought that person had just left or might have gone downstairs to let others into the apartment when she heard a commotion and saw three males come in, two with masks and guns and one without. (She told Agent Torres she only saw three people after that.) However, she also remembered two unmasked Hispanic males talking to each other and calling each other “brother” or “cousin,” (“she believed they were related”) and she identified one of the unmasked males as the person she and Fritz had had dinner with, later identified as Phillip Medina, and the other later identified as Robert Martinez. She told Torres she was not sure how involved Medina was.
When she was later shown a photo of Medina, she told Torres she recognized him but did not know his name. Torres said some of the details of the assault and shooting remained fuzzy to Salazar.
In Agent Torres’ interview with co-defendant McVey, Torres learned from him that McVey and Shem Brown were the two masked individuals at the scene of the assault and subsequent murder and that they were there “to get drugs and money” from Fritz, which they did. They also helped restrain the victims.
According to McVey’s conversation with Agent Torres, Martinez was the one who planned the robbery and who went in first, left the door unlocked and called Brown to tell Brown and McVey to come into the apartment. McVey also told Torres that Martinez was the one who beat Fritz with a wrench and shot him and also shot Salazar.
Torres also testified on Friday about an interview with Joshua Gonzales who owns an RV cleaning business in the same complex where Fritz’s apartment was located. Gonzales was cleaning an RV on the night of August 8 and into the early morning hours of August 9 and recalled seeing a black SUV coming and going at Fritz’s apartment on three occasions during that time. He recalled seeing it leave for the last time about 2 a.m. on August 9.
The vehicle belonged to McVey, but McVey told Torres that Martinez was the one driving it that night.
When Medina’s attorney Matthew Ragland questioned Torres about his interviews with McVey, Ragland asked if McVey knew if Martinez had a brother or cousin who might have been involved. McVey told Torres no one else was involved.
The final witness on the stand on Friday during Medina’s preliminary hearing was Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Sam Coffman, the lead investigator in this case. He spoke briefly to Alma Salazar before she was flown out, and at that point she could not remember her boyfriend’s name or those who had assaulted and shot them. Coffman also described the scene of the murder in Fritz’s apartment, interviews he conducted or assigned to others, surveillance video he reviewed, and numerous pages of Facebook and phone messages for which he obtained warrants on about a dozen people that might have been connected in some way to Fritz.
Some of the Facebook conversations were between Fritz and Medina. In one conversation in early August 2018 Medina told Fritz he had let things go to his head, but conversations became friendlier again after that. The last messages between the two were late evening on August 8 when Medina asked Fritz if he had any “black,” which Coffman took to mean black tar heroin, and Fritz invited Medina over and Medina responded BRT (be right there.) That was right before midnight, according to the messages, Coffman testified.
There were similar conversations between Martinez and Fritz, Coffman said.
Coffman said he interviewed Medina on October 9, 2018, and Medina’s demeanor fluctuated from calm to agitated. Coffman said Medina told him he did not know anything about the Fritz murder but said he had made dinner for Fritz and Salazar after he arrived at Fritz’s apartment on August 8 about 10 or 10:30 p.m. Medina told Coffman that afterwards Fritz walked him downstairs to the front door and let him out, and no one else was there, but later he said he let himself out.
When Coffman talked to Medina about his half brother Robert Martinez, Medina told Coffman that if he knew his brother was going to kill Fritz, he would have talked him out of it or stopped him.