Florida Keys News
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Attempted murder on the high seas, or a fairy tale?

TAVERNIER -- In a case that sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood suspense film, the Coast Guard Investigative Service is leading a probe into an alleged attempted murder last month in international waters, 40 miles off the Upper Keys.

The FBI and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office have also been involved in the investigation of Jeanette Marintez, who, documents show, faces allegations that she tried to throw her 17-year-old niece  into the Gulf Stream as they motored westward on Christmas Eve night.

Last week, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Martinez from going within 500 feet of her niece's home in Ontario, Canada, or from going within 500 feet of the boat belonging to her husband Mike Martinez, who docks his live-aboard in Tavernier's Blue Waters Marina. Mike, along with the niece, reported Jeanette to the Coast Guard upon their return to the Keys on Christmas morning.

Jeanette didn't fight the injunction, primarily, her attorney Jessica Reilly said, because prior to the hearing, they had not been put on notice that the teen would return to the Keys to testify.

"I was not going to put my client in a position where we were going to proceed with a hearing where I did not know what [the niece] was going to say," Reilly said.

In a Jan. 9 divorce filing, Jeanette's co-attorney Bernadette Restivo called the charges leveled by Mike and the girl a "fairy tale" that is "so explosive and far-fetched it reads like a teenaged novel."

Whichever adjective one uses to describe the allegations, they don't lack for drama.

According to statements the niece and Mike Martinez submitted to the court, Jeanette's behavior was erratic and frightening over the course of a boating vacation the trio took to the Exumas last month. She taunted her husband, who the teen had taken to the hospital in November for heart fibrillations, laughing and singing as she told him that he was going to have a heart attack.

Four times she told Mike that she planned to throw her niece overboard, he wrote, prompting Mike to caution the girl not to leave the boat alone with her aunt.

On Dec. 20, according to the niece's statement, Jeanette told her that she wanted to throw her so far she'd end up back in Miami.

"I was scared," the girl wrote.

"Her face was not human," Mike said of the incident during a Free Press interview.

But at times during the trip, the niece and Mike wrote, Jeanette was nice and talked of how much she was enjoying the vacation, which came at the end of the girl's six-month stay with her aunt and uncle on their Tavernier-based boat.

Things came to a head on the night of Christmas Eve while the trio was motoring across the Gulf Stream en route to Tavernier. Mike was the first to get a scare, he wrote.

Early in the night, while the niece was asleep, Jeanette asked her husband to come outside to look at a molar. She held a small flashlight with a sharply pointed edge in "an aggressive manner" as she beckoned Mike to get closer, he wrote. But Mike, afraid Jeanette would strike him, refused.

A few hours later, around 10 o'clock, Mike was asleep while the teen handled watch over the second shift of their night transit. He was awakened, he wrote, to the girl screaming his name. When he got outside, he saw Jeanette attempting to pull her niece out of the cockpit while the girl clung desperately to a metal pole.

Jeanette, the niece wrote, had dragged her three feet before she grabbed the pole and only let go once Mike emerged. All the while, Jeanette wore a terrible expression of hate.

"I know that if she succeeded in throwing me overboard I would not have survived," the niece wrote.

In an interview last week, Reilly said the allegations of the 17-year-old niece and 62-year-old Mike are nothing more than a classic cover story designed to obscure a "wildly inappropriate relationship, at best."

A grand jury could be convened to decide whether charges against Jeanette Martinez will be filed. Because the boat was in international waters at the time of the alleged incident, the U.S. Attorney's Office would be responsible for prosecuting the case.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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