Police: Man out to sea couldn't have killed Bakersfield girl

Police: Man out to sea couldn't have killed Bakersfield girl »Play Video
Jessica Martinez was 4 years old when she was kidnapped and murdered 23 years ago. (File photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Coming under fire by a former Kings County Sheriff's commander, Bakersfield police is defending the integrity of its investigation of the 23-year-old unsolved murder case of 4-year-old Jessica Martinez.

She disappeared on May 10, 1990, while playing outside her home at an apartment complex on the 5000 block of Belle Terrace.

Ex-commander Mark Bingaman questions the way BPD homicide investigators have handled the case. Bingaman believes BPD investigators failed to perform due diligence in ruling out a convicted sex offender as Jessica's killer, and questions why it took police 18 years before performing a DNA test on another suspect.

Not so, said BPD Detective Marcela Garcia, who is currently assigned to Jessica's case.

"All the investigators involved in the case from the very beginning till now have followed up on all and every lead that have come in to the department," said Garcia.

Bingaman successfully lead a team of investigators in Kings County to crack the murder case of 8-year-old Maria Piceño of Lemoore.  In 1995, the child was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered. Her body was dumped and found in Poso Creek in Kern County. Navy Petty Officer Gene McCurdy, of Wasco, based at Lemoore Naval Air Station at that time, was convicted for the murder of Maria Piceño. McCurdy received the death penalty and is currently on death row.

Bingaman said there were signs raised during the Piceño case that indicated to him that McCurdy also had a hand in the murder of Jessica. Further, Bingaman claimed he and fellow Kings County investigators brought this information and shared it when they met with Bakersfield police in the mid 1990s.

Again, not so, said Detective Garcia.

"I've personally spoken with the investigators that had been previously involved in this case," said Garcia. "They have never spoken with Mister Bingaman. Mister Bingaman has never contacted them."

A key question in whether McCurdy could have been involved in Jessica's death centers on the whereabouts of McCurdy on May 10, 1990, the day Jessica disappeared. Bingaman questioned if BPD investigators meticulously checked Navy records that would show McCurdy's location.

"I personally contacted Navy criminal investigators to confirm the information that I had previously received from (previous) investigators," said the BPD's Garcia.

And, where was McCurdy on May 10, 1990?

"He would of been out in the middle of the Indian Ocean," said Garcia. Specifically, she said Navy records indicate McCurdy was aboard the USS Carl Vinson.

Asked if she could definitively say that McCurdy is not responsible for Jessica's murder, Detective Garcia said, "Yes, sir."