MARYSVILLE — It was supposed to be Joseph Aaron Martin’s final marijuana deal, he said, but he shot and killed the Colorado buyer and could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Martin, 22, of Olivehurst, was sentenced Thursday by Yuba County Judge Julia L. Scrogin to 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Christopher Lawrence Russell, 33, of Boulder, Colo., during an argument over drugs and money.
“This was mindless,” Russell’s mother, Chris, told officials. “This was a stupid, useless killing that didn’t help anybody.”
Martin pleaded guilty in January to the June 14 shooting death of Russell in the Goldfields, about three miles downriver from the Parks Bar Bridge located about 20 miles west of Grass Valley on Highway 20.
Russell’s friends and family don’t believe Russell was involved in any drug deals with Martin.
According to Martin’s sentencing report, Russell drove from Colorado to purchase about 100 pounds of marijuana for around $130,000. Russell also intended to collect money Martin owed him from one of their four prior deals.
Martin met with Russell and Martin’s supplier, identified in the report only as “James.”
“Christopher did not like the quality of the marijuana Martin’s supplier was attempting to sell him,” the report says.
The supplier left by himself without completing the deal.
Martin and Russell argued over Martin’s debt before Russell picked up a rock. Martin said he was afraid Russell would bludgeon him, so he pulled out a .32-caliber semi-automatic and fired six shots into Russell’s face, neck, shoulder and arm, including one round to the back of Russell’s head, the report says.
Martin dragged the body to the passenger side of Russell’s truck so he “would not have to look at him” while Martin went through Russell’s belongings inside.
Martin fled the area in a car at high speed, cracked his oil pan on a rock and was forced to call a tow truck for his getaway car, the report says. Martin was arrested a short time later.
He later told Yuba County sheriff’s deputies he “freaked out” after killing Russell and began to cry when he saw Russell “leaking all over the place.”
Asked about potentially spending the rest of his life behind bars, Martin said, “It’s not near what (Russell) went through.”
“He doesn’t have a chance to come back,” Martin said. “I have a chance to come home.”
He also expressed regret and said he would “take it back if I could.”
“It sucks. My life is over, but it’s not even about that,” Martin told a Yuba County probation officer. “(Russell) was my friend. I liked him and he’s gone.”
Rob Parsons is a reporter with the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.