Former Tampa Bay Rays minor league prospect gets life in prison

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California jury on Thursday recommended that a former minor league baseball player be sentenced to life in prison without parole after he was convicted of murdering three people with a baseball bat in 2015.

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Brandon Willie Martin, 27, avoided the death penalty after a Riverside County jury recommended the life sentence, the Los Angeles Times reported.

That same jury on Nov. 4 found Martin, a shortstop chosen in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, guilty in the Sept. 17, 2015, deaths of his father, Michael Martin, 64; his uncle, Ricky Andersen, 51; and alarm installer Barry Swanson, 62.

The jury deliberated for nearly two days before reaching a verdict, the Times reported.

Martin, who has been held without bail since being arrested shortly after the murders, will be sentenced by Judge Bernard J. Schwartz on Jan. 29, KTLA reported.

The verdict followed four days of testimony during the penalty phase of the trial, the Times reported.

The Rays selected Martin from Santiago High School in Corona with the 38th overall selection in the 2011 draft, the Times reported. He received an $860,000 signing bonus, the newspaper reported.

>> Former Tampa Bay Rays minor league prospect convicted in triple murder

During Martin’s trial, prosecutors alleged that he had been experiencing psychiatric issues after being released by the Bowling Green Hot Rods in March 2015. He was admitted to the Riverside County Department of Mental Health’s emergency treatment facility on Sept. 15, 2015, for an evaluation, the Times reported.

Martin’s admission to the facility came after he allegedly made threats against his father, the newspaper reported. Martin was released two days later and went to his father’s home shortly after 6 p.m.

The elder Martin was at his home with Anderson and Swanson, an ADT alarm company technician who was at Michael Martin’s home for an installation consultation, KABC reported.

According to prosecutors, Brandon Martin grabbed a baseball bat inside the house and began hitting all three men, the Times reported. Michael Martin and Swanson died at the scene, and Anderson was in a coma for two days before dying from his injuries, the newspaper reported.

The bat was engraved with Martin’s name, the Times reported.

Defense attorneys had argued Martin was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in January 2013 and had never been treated, the Times reported.

“Look at Brandon,” Edward Welbourn, one of Martin’s defense attorneys, said during a live stream of the closing statements. “He has no affect. He has shown no reaction to any witness. … He’s no longer the same person.”

Kevin Beecham, one of the Riverside County prosecutors, blamed Martin, and not mental illness, for the crimes.

“You have to remember these are the choices Brandon made,” Beecham said. “He chose to sign a $860,000 contract, to rent a mansion, to do drugs, to party incessantly, to refuse to listen to his family.”

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