BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — The trial of a Peabody man charged in a violent armed robbery at a Salem gas station in July 2012 got underway yesterday in Salem Superior Court.
While Richard Martinez, 30, admits he was at a gas station on July 3, the night of the holdup, he told police he was simply defending his brother Edwin during an argument after an attendant “got fresh.” Besides that, he told police, the gas station was in Peabody.
But police and prosecutors say Martinez was actually at Spiros Energy, a full-service gas station on Boston Street in Salem, near the Peabody line.
The clerk was inside the station, counting the night’s receipts, when he looked up and saw a man police say was Martinez, asking for cigarettes, prosecutor Greg Friedholm told jurors yesterday during his opening statement. The clerk quickly stuffed the cash he was counting, $960, into his pocket.
Then, police say, Martinez asked for $5 worth of gas.
When the clerk was outside pumping the gas, the suspect and his brother both got out of the car, police say. According to police, Richard Martinez pistol-whipped the clerk, leaving him with head wounds, and ripped the pocket off his pants.
Friedholm said a couple out for a run saw the commotion. They started to approach but backed off when they saw the handgun, Friedholm told jurors.
Meanwhile, a passing driver who happens to be the daughter of a police officer also saw what was happening and called police with a description of the pair’s vehicle and license plate number.
That led police to Edwin Martinez’s girlfriend, the owner of the car, and eventually to Richard.
But defense lawyer Kirk Bransfield argued to the jury that none of the witnesses, including the clerk, could identify his client in a photo array.
And though Richard Martinez admitted he was in a gas station that night, he told police it was in Peabody, Bransfield argued.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.