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Testimony begins in Lara-Martinez murder trial

Witnesses, local authorities and family members painted a clearer picture of the events surrounding Maria Isabel Romero Medina's 2014 death during the first day of testimony in Ricardo Alfonso Lara-Martinez's murder trial. 

Lara-Martinez is accused of killing Medina, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of their now 7-year-old son, on Dec. 12, 2014 after a deliberate assault at Sanchez Insurance & Tax Services, 1111 E. McKinney St. He fled to Mexico after the killing, and FBI agents returned Lara-Martinez to Denton last June. 

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. On the day of Medina's death, Lara-Martinez planned to take the boy to Mexico to see his ailing father, according to prosecutor Lindsey Sheguit's opening statements on Tuesday. 

Sheguit said that on Dec. 12, 2014, Lara-Martinez visited the tax office, where Medina worked, so she could sign documents allowing the boy to go with him. Medina's body was found the next day. 

In Judge Bruce McFarling's 362nd Judicial District Court, Lara-Martinez pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder while listening through a translator.

Later in the trial, a Denton police evidence technician described the scene of Medina's lifeless body on the floor of a small bathroom in the insurance office. The technician said one of her teeth had been knocked out, and the entire left side of her face was bruised. 

The technician said she also analyzed multiple bruises on Medina's neck that looked as though she had been strangled. 

The medical examiner officially ruled Medina's death a homicide by blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. But Lara-Martinez's lawyer, Denton attorney Derek Adame, argued it wasn't intentional. 

"What the evidence will show is that this was no master plan," Adame said. He later added, "Stupidly, maybe even recklessly, he puts his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming, and she dies." 

Several witnesses, including one of Medina's three sisters, spoke Tuesday about the emotional moment they learned about Medina's death. And a Denton police officer testified on the first steps of the investigation. 

Testimony continues at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

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

FEATURED PHOTO: Defendant Ricardo Lara-Martinez, right, listens through a translator as the prosecution reads the indictment Tuesday at the Denton County Courts Building in Denton.
Jake King/DRC