Guilty verdict in Cloverdale man’s 2018 slaying

Sonoma County jurors Tuesday convicted a Healdsburg man of kidnapping and killing a business partner in a marijuana deal, then burying his body in a pot garden.

Socorro Sierra, 35, was found guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping plus firearm charges for the 2018 murder of Jose Evelio Martinez, 46, of Cloverdale.

Sierra faces a possible maximum punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Jan. 23 by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana Simonds.

Martinez was missing for several weeks - and his large family searched for him - before Sierra led authorities to the location of his body, buried under 6 feet of earth in an illegal marijuana plantation off West Dry Creek Road in rural Healdsburg, officials said.

Sierra initially denied knowing what had happened to Martinez when asked by the man’s family, but later confessed to law enforcement.

“He lied to me. He told me he would help me if he knew where my brother was,” Martinez’s sister, Alicia Foley of Cloverdale, said Tuesday after court.

At least a half-dozen family members of Martinez sat in the gallery as the court clerk read the jury’s verdict. Martinez, a truck driver for Friedman’s Home Improvement, had nine brothers and four sisters, and he lived with his two adult children.

“Our brother was a really good guy who got involved with a coward,” Foley said.

Prosecutors said Martinez was relatively new to the illicit marijuana business when he agreed to supply bulk cannabis to Sierra, an experienced dealer in the methamphetamine and marijuana drug trades. Martinez was looking to make some extra money after his wife’s death, according to prosecutors.

Martinez produced less marijuana than promised, and Sierra began trying to extort money from him, claiming he was owed as much as $16,000, according to prosecutors.

Martinez apparently didn’t have the money Sierra was trying to get from him.

The dispute boiled over June 30, 2018 when Sierra, who had been stalking Martinez, confronted him in a Cloverdale grocery store parking lot. He convinced Martinez to get into his car, and drove him and two accomplices to the Old Geysers Bridge, a secluded area near The Geysers geothermal region dividing Sonoma and Lake counties.

Sierra and Martinez got out of the car, leaving the accomplices behind, and walked under the bridge. Sierra shot Martinez at close range, returned to the car and drove away.

He returned alone later that night, put Martinez’s body in a garbage bag and brought it to the West Dry Creek property. He later rented an excavator to dig a grave, according to prosecutors.

His accomplices reached plea agreements with prosecutors for their roles in Martinez’s death. Felix Fernando Carreon, 43, was sentenced to six years in state prison and Climmie Smith-Hill, 30, received a one-year jail sentence with three years felony probation for their roles as accessories in the case.

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