Murder suspect weeps as friend testifies

MASON CITY – A Marshalltown man on trial for murder wept as his best friend testified for the prosecution Thursday.

Ruben Martinez said he’s been a friend of Jeremy Gartin’s since they were 12 years old. On the morning of Oct. 1, when police say Gartin shot and killed David Warnell, Gartin inadvertently called Martinez’s phone, leaving a telling voicemail.

It was that voicemail that would lead Martinez to alert the authorities to investigate a possible shooting.

In the voicemail, which the state submitted as evidence, Gartin says something about pulling a trigger, it going ‘pow’ and that he shot someone in the head. He also mentions stabbing someone in the heart and burning a couch. In the recording, Gartin said twice “it was an accident.”

Martinez also testified that he had two other missed calls from Gartin that morning and that later, Gartin called him and asked to use his truck.

When he called again Martinez said he had heard the voicemail and knew what happened.

“I told him to turn himself in and he said he couldn’t,” Martinez said. “He said he was going away for 50 years if he got caught for what he did.”

Later Gartin sent Martinez a text saying he took some bad acid, and “please don’t do what I think you’re going to do.”

Martinez did wait awhile before reporting the voicemail to a drug task force agent.

“Jeremy is my best friend probably it took me awhile to call police. I didn’t know what to do,” Martinez said.

Martinez also testified during the cross-examination that Gartin had been drinking more following a custody decision and was depressed at the time of the incident.

Wade Lamb, owner of Area Sanitation, also testified on Thursday. Lamb said he received a call from Gartin, who used to work for him, mid-morning on Oct. 1 asking him about garbage pickup. He followed up with text messages about payment, and later about an item Lamb had not picked up with the garbage, Lamb said.

Lamb’s garbage truck was later stopped by authorities and taken to impound. Two law enforcement agents testified Thursday they discovered human remains and other evidence in the garbage bags taken from Gartin’s home, 502 N. Fourth Ave.

On cross-examination Lamb said that when Gartin was working for him he had a weak stomach and would throw up regularly while doing garbage routes.

The majority of the trial day, however, was spent on defense attorney Paul Rounds’ cross-examination of Max E. Nelson, Jr., who remained on the stand until 3 p.m.

Rounds worked to uncover inconsistencies in Nelson’s many interviews with law enforcement. He also spent a chunk of time discussing Nelson’s previous criminal and drug history.

Nelson, who is charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact in the case, testified “I was basically afraid for my life.”

However Rounds said he had ample time to escape from Gartin if he was afraid. Much time was also spent discussing Nelson’s first two interactions with law enforcement on Oct. 1.

Nelson admitted to making false statements to police during two different interviews that day. He again said he was fearful his family would be harmed if he immediately told police what had happened.

Rounds said Nelson’s story about the incident has changed repeatedly and that Nelson made up completely false statements to police.

Rounds asked, and Nelson confirmed, the state has never pressured him about the truthfulness of his story.

Gartin is charged with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and carrying a concealed weapon. His trial continues Friday morning.