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Married Couple Charged with Murder After Georgia Toddler They Babysat Died from ‘Traumatic Brain Injury,’ Investigators Say

Nancy Martinez and Juan Martinez courtesy of the Hall County Sheriff's Office

Nancy Martinez and Juan Martinez courtesy of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office

A married couple was taken into custody and accused of murdering the 2-year-old girl they babysat over the weekend in Georgia while the toddler’s parents were working.

Detectives with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) arrested 31-year-old Juan Martinez and 32-year-old Nancy Martinez, both residents of Gainesville, at HCSO headquarters Monday morning in connection with the death of Valeria Jordon Garfias. The husband and wife duo are charged with one count each of felony murder and first-degree cruelty to children.

According to a post on the HSCO Facebook page, the young girl was in the sole care of Juan and Nancy Martinez on Sunday, Oct. 10 when she sustained the fatal injuries.

Hall County Fire Services responded to a call at the couple’s residence, located at the 2000 block of Bennet Circle, at approximately 1:50 p.m. Sunday. Emergency medical personnel attempted life-saving procedures and the toddler was rushed to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. The medical team then had her flown to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Hospital where she was later pronounced dead from her injuries.

Officials at the children’s hospital contacted HSCO detectives “because of the nature of the victim’s injuries,” which indicated that they were non-accidental.

Medical personnel said that Valeria’s death was a homicide caused by “traumatic brain injury and other internal injuries to the child’s body.”

Juan and Nancy Martinez were booked into the Hall County Jail following their arrests, where they are both currently being held without bond.

The child’s body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) forensic lab for an autopsy as the case remains under investigation.

A babysitter in Michigan last month accepted a plea deal from prosecutors who accused her of beating the 1-year-old girl she was caring for to death in March 2020.

Kellie Jean Barthel, 37, pleaded no contest to the charge of second-degree murder in the death of toddler Vayda-Kay Vasquez, who was just weeks away from celebrating her second birthday, Law&Crime previously reported. Prosecutors said that Barthel binged on drugs and alcohol before viciously thrashing the toddler.

A detective who responded to the scene testified that when he arrived at Barthel’s home she “threw Vayda to the floor” right in front of him and told him to “do something.” He said the toddler was “covered from head to toe in bruises” and cold to the touch.

Emergency Medical Service paramedics told the detective that “it appeared to them that the child was used as a punching bag and it was very apparent that the child had been deceased for quite some time.”

[image via Hall County Sheriff’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.