Ahwatukee man convicted of killing son from drug overdose in 2004 walks free

AHWATUKEE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – A former Ahwatukee man convicted of killing his own young son is free tonight. Five-year-old Joshua Eberle Martinson died from an overdose 18 years ago. It marks the end of two decade-long saga involving multiple trials.

In 2004, Josh was found dead on a bunk bed while his father, Jeffrey Martinson, was in the next room passed out from an attempted suicide with drugs prescription and liquor. The medical examiner ruled Josh’s death was from an overdose of prescription meds, and his father was charged with his murder. However, multiple years and trials later, he’s now free.

She’s lived without her son for 18 years. “I was Joshy’s mommy. That was the best thing in the world I could ever be,” said Kris Eberle in court Friday.

Eberle was in a bitter custody battle with her ex, Martinson, in August 2004. At the time, the judge granted Eberle’s request for supervised exchanges with Josh’s dad.

Josh went to his dad’s apartment for the last time, just three days after that custody court date. That’s where the 5-year-old was found dead from an overdose of drugs prescription. “When Josh was murdered, I didn’t lose just Josh, I lost my faith in everything. I lost my identity,” Eberle said in court.

After many delays, Martinson was found guilty of first-degree murder and child abuse in 2011, and a jury was deciding on a life or death sentence for him. Still, a judge eventually declared a mistrial due to jury misconduct and testimony that shouldn’t have been allowed.

Martinson was released from custody in 2013, only to be re-arrested for the crime in 2018 while living in Wisconsin. He was sent back to prison until 2020 and has been on an ankle monitor ever since.

In June of this year, a jury found him guilty again of child abuse, but this time, guilty of negligent homicide too, a much lesser charge than first-degree murder.

That brought us to Friday’s sentencing. “Parents are not meant to bury their children,” the judge said.

Martinson was given 2.5 years for each charge to run simultaneously. But because he has already served far more time in prison than 2.5 years, he’s immediately set free, a heartbreaking end for Joshua’s mom. “Jeff Martinson took everything from me. He tried to take Josh from me through the court, and when that didn’t work, he took him permanently. But he cannot take my memories of Josh, Eberle said.

Arizona’s family spoke with Josh’s mom personally on the phone Friday, who said she was touched by the more than 60 victim impact statements written to the court by family and friends about Josh and this case. She said she believes her son’s death was premeditated and that the first jury did too, so an outcome like this is certainly not what she wanted.

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