WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A West Palm Beach woman is facing criminal charges in connection with the 2017 fatal shooting of her ex-boyfriend, whom she claimed had accidentally shot himself in the head.
Ruby Martinez was arrested Thursday on a warrant for manslaughter and tampering with evidence.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Martinez initially told deputies that she and Jamal Francis were sitting in his vehicle in March 2017 when his gun accidentally discharged, killing him.
However, after a lengthy investigation involving a forensic expert, it was determined that Francis likely couldn't have shot himself, Barbera said.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Martinez told homicide Detective James Evans that she asked Francis to come hang out with her at her Barbarie Lane home. When he arrived, Francis drove her to a liquor store, where they bought a bottle of Tito's Vodka and returned to her house.
While they were sitting inside the vehicle, Francis asked Martinez to get the gun out of his glove compartment and hand it to him, which she did, Martinez told Evans.
Martinez said that, at some point while Francis was holding the gun, she heard a single gunshot, looked to her right and realized that he had shot himself in the head.
"She was adamant that Jamal Francis possibly 'slipped up' because she has observed him manipulate and handle the handgun on countless occasions and he appeared to always have full control and understanding of his gun," Evans wrote in the affidavit.
Evans said Martinez told him Francis was trying to switch magazines when the gun fired, but she later "retracted her initial statement and explained she didn't know what he intended to do with the gun."
Martinez denied accidentally or intentionally shooting her boyfriend of about five months.
"During the interview, Ruby Martinez stated she never observed Jamal Francis playing with the handgun in a joking manner, which is contrary to the information she originally provided to the communication dispatcher" when she called 911, Evans wrote.
Martinez said she was holding a brown bag that had the vodka in it between her legs and was unscrewing the top of the bottle when she heard the gunshot.
Evans wrote that the blood found on Martinez's clothing was not consistent with back spatter. He also said Martinez didn't have any blood spatter on her legs, shorts or shoes.
Detectives believed early on in the investigation that Martinez had manipulated the crime scene, but first they needed more evidence, so they solicited the help of Anna Cox, a forensic expert who specializes in blood-spatter analysis. She concluded that Francis "most likely did not shoot himself using his right hand."
A lack of blood on the gun and the floorboard under the gun were other indicators that Francis couldn't have pulled the trigger, Cox determined.
Cox's analysis concluded that the gun was either far enough away from Francis that there was no back spatter or the blood was removed from the gun before it wound up on the floorboard.
Her analysis also concluded that Martinez's arm was "lifted away from the side of the shirt" based on the blood spatter under the armpit and down the side of the shirt.
"At no point were her arms in a downward position, which would be consistent positioning when one is opening or manipulating a bottle," the report said.
Evans spoke to one of Francis' co-workers, who claimed that he "wasn't depressed, dejected or suicidal." Francis' sister said she spoke with him on Snapchat within an hour of the shooting and that he was in "wonderful spirits."
The forensic analysis was enough to seem to validate detectives' suspicions.
After detectives presented the evidence to the state attorney's office, a warrant was issued for Martinez's arrest.
"Following the shooting, the evidence establishes that Ruby Martinez staged the scene by placing the handgun on the driver's floorboard and tampered with the scene by intentionally removing the Tito's Vodka bottle from the center console/cup holder area and throwing it behind the vehicle," the report said.
Martinez was being held at the main Palm Beach County jail on a $3,000 bond.