A woman accused of murdering four of her young children and their father appeared in a Georgia court Friday morning, smiling and posing for cameras.
Isabel Martinez, 33, made her first court appearance before Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Michael Thorpe a day after police said she stabbed family members at a residence in Loganville, a small town some 35 miles east of Atlanta. One child, a 9-year-old girl, survived but remained hospitalized with serious injuries, police said.
A smiling Martinez posed for news cameras before her hearing began, giving reporters a double thumbs up. When the judge listed the charges she faces — five counts of malice murder, five counts of murder and six counts of aggravated assault — Martinez shook her head “no” and wagged her finger at him.
Martinez also told the judge through a Spanish-language interpreter that she doesn’t want an attorney, later adding that the people and her faith are her lawyers.
Cpl. Michele Pihera of the Gwinnett County Police Department said a woman inside the house on Emory Lane on Thursday at 4:47 a.m. ET called 911 to report a stabbing. Pihera later told ABC News that Martinez made that call.
Martinez was immediately detained after responding officers found the bodies of 33-year-old Martin Romero, 10-year-old Isabela Martinez, 7-year-old Dacota Romero, 4-year-old Dillan Romero and 2-year-old Axel Romero inside the home. The hospitalized girl, Diana Romero, remained in serious but stable condition Thursday night, according to police.
Martinez told police she is the mother to all the children and the adult victim was the father. Police believe the family lived together in the house.
Jim Hollandsworth, co-founder of The Path Project, a nonprofit that runs an after-school program that Martinez’s children participated in, said the Spanish-speaking family had moved to the largely Hispanic neighborhood just a few months ago.
“The kids were fantastic kids,” Hollandsworth said in an interview with ABC affiliate WSB-TV on Thursday. “They had tons to live for and a future ahead of them, so it’s awful and devastating.”
Martinez was arrested and booked at the Gwinnett County Jail on Thursday, where she is being held without bond, police said.
An immigration hold was also placed on Martinez, but police didn’t provide further details.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox told ABC News that Martinez is a Mexican national who illegally entered the United States at an unknown date. She has no prior encounters with the agency, he said.
The immigration hold that ICE issued would only apply if and when Martinez was released, he noted.
Police said Martinez has been “cooperative” with investigators, but the motive for the crimes is not being released.
The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct autopsies to conclusively determine how each of the victims died, authorities said.
“What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand,” the Gwinnett County Police Department said in a statement Thursday. “This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community.”