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Man charged in deadly assault of son's mother headed to trial in Denton County

The jury trial for Ricardo Alfonso Lara-Martinez begins Monday, more than three years after he was accused of murdering his young son's mother at a local business office.

The trial, which begins at 9 a.m., will be in Judge Bruce McFarling's 362nd Judicial District Court.

Ricardo Lara-Martinez
Ricardo Lara-Martinez

FBI agents returned Lara-Martinez to Denton in June after he had been in custody in Mexico since February 2016. He's specifically charged in the murder of his son's mother, Maria Isabel Romero Medina, who was found dead Dec. 13, 2014, at Sanchez Insurance and Tax Services, 1111 E. McKinney St.

He remains in Denton County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. Lara-Martinez's lawyer, Denton attorney Derek Adame, maintains the woman's death was an accident.

"We're optimistic," he said. "Lara-Martinez's position is this was accidental, and we're hoping that's what the evidence will show. We don't believe he was guilty, and we don't believe the state will be able to prove that."

Police said Medina died Dec. 12, 2014, as a result of a deliberate assault. She suffered numerous injuries, including a fractured skull. The cause of death included strangulation, according to Lara-Martinez's arrest affidavit.

Lara-Martinez and Medina had been in a custody battle for the boy, Ricardo Alekzander Lara, who was 4 years old at the time of her death. Police said it was a point of contention between the parents.

"The manner in which the victim was murdered is indicative of a direct reaction to a strong emotional response, frequently seen in and known to happen in child custody cases," the affidavit states.

Maria Isabel Romero Medina is shown with her son, Ricardo Alekzander Lara.
Maria Isabel Romero Medina is shown with her son, Ricardo Alekzander Lara.

Lara-Martinez fled to Mexico with his son shortly after police found Medina's badly beaten body at her workplace. After an Amber Alert had been issued for the boy, a man came forward to Denton police and said he had driven Lara-Martinez and his son to Mexico, according to earlier reports.

Investigators obtained an arrest warrant for a murder charge as the search for Lara-Martinez continued. In early 2015, a Denton County grand jury indicted Martinez on the charge. 

The following year, a Mexican judge granted Lara-Martinez's extradition to the country. Police found him with his son in Mexico in February 2016 and returned the now 7-year-old boy to Texas. Then, in June 2017, Denton police investigators took custody of Lara-Martinez at DFW International Airport. Police said when he returned, he admitted to killing the woman.

Other trials rescheduled

Several other high-profile cases that were originally slated for Monday trials have been rescheduled.

The jury trial for Earl Leroy Thompson Jr., who was arrested in June in connection with a sexual assault and attempted sexual assaults near the University of North Texas campus, is now set for April 30 in Judge Brody Shanklin's 211th Judicial District Court.

Hanyel Leon-Gomez, the man accused of fatally shooting former Guyer High School football player Deandre Wilson in the head at a bar near the UNT campus, is expected to go to trial June 4 in Judge Steve Burgess' 158th Judicial District Court.

Also, Daniel Greco, who is accused of murdering 40-year-old Anjanette Harris in early March 2016, has yet to receive a new trial date for his capital murder charge.

Police said Greco strangled Harris and dumped her body in a wooded area near Shorewood Drive in Little Elm. His case is the first since 2011 in which Denton County prosecutors have sought the death penalty. 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.