A Paradise man once charged with murder in the drug overdose death of a Monterey woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and other counts on Friday.
After a two-week bench trial, Judge Julie Culver found Gabriel Martinez, 37, guilty in connection with the drug-induced death of Lisa Groveman, 30, hours after the two met at an Alvarado Street nightclub on June 9, 2011.
Saying Martinez's statements to Monterey police were "riddled with untruth," Culver said she believed a female friend of Groveman's told the truth on the witness stand.
Culver quoted the friend as saying, "This guy just kept throwing pills at her. It was like there were no limits."
Forensic pathologist Dr. John Hain earlier told the court Groveman likely ingested about seven methadone pills as well as Vicodin and alcohol. That amount of methadone alone could have killed a person who, like Groveman, has not built up a tolerance for it, Hain said.
Prosecutor Steve Somers said Hain testified Martinez could have saved Groveman's life if he called 911 when she first appeared to be in trouble.
She died after pulmonary edema set in, filling her lungs with liquid, Hain said.
"There was no evidence, however, that the defendant intended to kill the victim or wanted her to die," Somers said in an emailed statement after the verdicts. But like Culver, he criticized Martinez's delay in seeking help for Groveman.
"Rather than calling 911 to summon aid, the defendant dressed the unconscious victim, left her in bed and alone in her apartment, and went to buy donuts," Somers wrote.
Martinez faced a second-degree murder charge until an agreement was reached about a month ago in which he waived his right to a jury trial.
A murder charge for an unintentional drug overdose is a rarity in California.
Defense attorney Larry Biegel argued Groveman willingly ingested the drugs and Martinez couldn't have known she was about to die when he left her apartment the morning after a night of sex.
According to testimony, Martinez was in Monterey on business that day. His job included helping pharmacies package expired drugs for return to manufacturers for rebates.
He met Groveman and her friend that night at an Alvarado Street nightclub. At Groveman's request, detectives testified, he retrieved methadone pills from his hotel room.
After spending time at another Monterey nightspot, where Groveman was seen taking pills on a surveillance video, they went to her apartment in the 500 block of Aguajito Road.
In a videotaped police interview shown at trial, Martinez said Groveman started breathing strangely and drooling about 5 a.m.
When he left the apartment a few hours later, Groveman was "breathing on her own," Martinez told police, and he left a cell phone next to her head so he could check on her.
In other statements, however, he told police she was "unconscious" when he left.
Martinez went to Red's Donuts on Alvarado Street and when he called about 10 a.m. Groveman didn't respond, he said. He returned to check on Groveman because, he said, his intuition told him something was wrong with her.
After he alerted a patrol officer about 11 a.m., she was found dead in her bed.
Over protests from Biegel, Culver ruled an additional enhancement charge of causing great bodily injury would be allowed, although the law says the enhancement cannot be applied to murder or manslaughter counts.
But Culver, agreeing with prosecutor Steve Somers, said it could still be applied to two of Martinez's other counts of supplying illegal drugs to Groveman and her friend.
Biegel argued against the enhancement, which could significantly increase Martinez's sentence.
Culver cited conflicting case law about whether the enhancement might amount to "dual punishment" for the same crime, but ultimately sided with rulings that allowed it to be admitted if applied to charges other than murder or manslaughter.
Under the stipulated terms of his bench trial agreement, Martinez faces a maximum of 11 years and eight months in prison, including the enhancement.
He is to be sentenced Feb. 26.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or email@example.com.