Ax murderer changes plea as trial begins

Martha Walker sentenced to life in prison without parole

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A woman accused of killing her 76-year-old mother with an ax inside her Hollywood home changed her plea after her trial began Wednesday.

Martha Walker pleaded guilty to murdering her mother and to later hiring a hit man to kill her husband. She accepted a plea deal sentencing her to to life in prison without parole as well as 30 years that will run concurrently for the solicitation of murder.

"She has indicated that's what she wants to do and there is nothing I can do to stop her from doing that. I wish there was," said Judge Ilona Holmes.

After getting power of attorney over her mother Carmen Santiago Walker, Martha Walker sold her home and planned to take her mother to North Carolina, said prosecutors. But when her mother refused to go, police say Walker killed her.

"She waited for her to go to sleep and then she struck the mother twice with the axe," Carlos Negron with Hollywood Police said in April 2007.

During opening arguments, Arthur Marchetta, Jr., Walker's defense attorney, said her mother pulled out a gun and Walker killed her in self-defense.

Prosecutors said they had a witness who would testify that Walker confessed to the crime; video of Walker buying an industrial grinder, tarps, goggles, and cleaning supplies after the murder; and, an audio tape of Walker impersonating her mother after her death.

Then Walker changed her plea, stunning the court.

"Has a plea like this ever happened this late before for you?" Local 10's Todd Tongen asked prosecutor Shari Tate.

"Not in the 23 years I have been there, no. I am very surprised that it happened this way," replied Tate.

"Did this come out of left field?" Tongen asked Marchetta.

"If you can be left of left field, it came out of that field," answered Marchetta. "I have been working on this case night and day for tow and a half months. I have almost a thousand hours on this case and today's event was quite surprising."

So why did she do it?

"Her husband and her son were scheduled as witnesses and I think she did not want to put them through it and may be it was her way to do at least one thing right after what she had done to her mom," said Tate.

"I think Martha Walker was desperate to try and right some wrongs and in her mind, this was a way she could do it," said Marchetta.

Marchetta said Walker doesn't want to appeal the sentence.

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