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Flagstaff man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

In this March 4, 2020 file photo, Wanda Ahasteen stops by a memorial for Deshaun Martinez in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Jake Bacon
Arizona Daily Sun via AP
In this March 4, 2020 file photo, Wanda Ahasteen stops by a memorial for Deshaun Martinez in Flagstaff, Ariz.

A Flagstaff man was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and other crimes in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

A Coconino County Superior Court jury found 28-year-old Anthony Martinez guilty in the death of Deshaun Martinez. Martinez also was convicted of two counts each of child abuse, kidnapping and aggravated assault on law enforcement officers.

The sentencing is set for June 28.

Authorities say the boy was locked in a tiny bedroom closet for 16 hours a day over a month with his older brother as punishment for stealing food in the home at night while their parents slept.

An autopsy showed he weighed just 18 pounds when he died — well below average for his age. The manner of death was listed as a homicide.

Thursday's conviction was the second in the case. The boy's mother, Elizabeth Archibeque, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse last year and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Joseph Carver told jurors in closing arguments this week that Archibeque dominated the couple's relationship and Anthony Martinez never displayed any independent decision-making when it came to parenting their children, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

But prosecutor Michael Tunink said all the evidence in the case pointed to Martinez creating and perpetuating the condition the boys were in, the newspaper reported.

Flagstaff police reported finding the 6-year-old unresponsive after his paternal grandmother — Ann Martinez — called 911 on March 2, 2020 and said it appeared the younger grandson was dead.

Ann Martinez has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including child abuse tied to disciplining the boys by allegedly hitting them with a coat hanger. Her trial is scheduled for August.

Archibeque and Anthony Martinez initially attributed their sons' malnourished state to a medical condition and ingesting diet or caffeine pills for several weeks.

Anthony Martinez told authorities that the boys only had oatmeal and bread for breakfast and lunch, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. Martinez also admitted to sitting next to the closet while playing video games to ensure the boys didn't get out.

Police said Deshaun Martinez and his then 7-year-old brother were kept in the closet from 8 p.m. to noon daily for a month with limited food and were kept from attending school. The closet was lined with an orange plastic sheet that reeked of urine.

The older boy survived but weighed just 28 pounds when police found him. He was taken to a hospital and recovered after nearly three weeks of treatment.

Police said the couple's other children — two girls ages 2 and 4 in 2020 — were found to be healthy and weight proportionate and they didn't have any restrictions at home.