Woman pleads guilty to '78 Seattle murder
A former-prostitute-turned-hitwoman has pleaded guilty to murder nearly three decades after she told a prosecutor that she shot and killed...
Seattle Times staff reporter
A former-prostitute-turned-hitwoman has pleaded guilty to murder nearly three decades after she told a prosecutor that she shot and killed a South Seattle auto mechanic because she heard his death was worth $10,000.
Karen L. Martin, 52, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder for the 1978 shooting of Leroy Grant, 36, according to King County Superior Court documents. She faces between 15 years and life in prison when she is sentenced Feb. 8.
Though Martin confessed to federal investigators and an assistant U.S. attorney about a year after the crime, she wasn't charged until December 2006, according to court documents. The assistant U.S. attorney, J. Ronald Sim, now a criminal defense attorney, had offered Martin immunity in exchange for information about organized crime, but the immunity was never made official and Sim never told local authorities about her confession.
Sim has said he recalled Martin coming forward and offering information about criminal activity, but that he could not remember exactly what she told him.
Sim said he didn't tell King County investigators or prosecutors about Martin's statements to him about Grant's killing because of the immunity offer. "If somebody gives you something under grant of immunity, you're promising not to tell anybody," Sim said.
It wasn't until a cold-case task force revisited the case decades later that local authorities pieced together the details and charged Martin.
In 1979, a year after Grant was found dead at the foot of an embankment in Maple Valley, Martin and her lawyer approached Sim in Seattle seeking immunity in exchange for information about organized crime. After an agreement was made, Martin admitted to shooting Grant for $10,000 that was supposed to be paid by someone involved in organized crime, but she never received the money, according to court documents.
Grant was a target because he had obtained some money "he was not supposed to have gotten," she told Sim and federal investigators, according to court documents.
Martin was never interviewed again, apparently because the information she had wasn't helpful to federal investigators, according to court documents. Sim also never sought formal immunity for Martin and never told local authorities about her confession.
In July 2006, a cold-case task force reopened the Grant murder case and interviewed Martin, according to the documents. A detective suggested to Martin that her DNA had been found at the crime scene — though it had not — and she confessed to the murder.
Martin told the detective that her husband, who was in jail and involved with prostitution and organized crime at the time, told her that she would be paid $10,000 to murder Grant, according to the court documents.
Martin admitted concocting a story about a Corvette she wanted to restore, driving with the mechanic to a secluded area, and shooting him three times.
Brian Alexander: 206-464-2026 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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