TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A 37-year-old man from Visalia was convicted of attempted murder and arson on Thursday, according to the Tulare County District Attorney’s office.
Officials say on Feb. 7, 2021, Super Bowl Sunday, at around 6:30 p.m. Mark Martin allegedly broke into the garage of his ex-girlfriend with whom he has two children. At that moment the woman and the two minors were also in the Visalia home.
District Attorney officials say Martin used gasoline to start a fire near the water heater, which quickly spread to two cars in the garage and other areas. The occupants were quickly evacuated.
Initially, it was believed that the incident started from a water heater failure, but investigators found that it started as a fire and police officers determined arson as the cause.
Officials say during the investigation, law enforcement obtained security video from nearby homes that showed a man riding a BMX bicycle around that house during the time of the fire. Martin was later identified as the suspect.
Authorities say the next day Martin made a post on social media directed to his ex-girlfriend about the seriousness of his intentions and the fear he hoped the fire instilled in her. He also posted in a Visalia social group on Facebook, asking how a water heater could cause so much damage. He was arrested on Feb. 9th, 2021.
Additionally, the victim presented evidence of a series of threats and harassment made before the incident, including Martin’s voicemails directed to the victim saying “die in a slow death” and “burn to death” as well as a note left in his ex’s vehicle threatening her new boyfriend to end the relationship, and statements that showed Martin bragging about setting the fire in less than an hour before the incident, the DA’s office said.
Martin was convicted charges of attempted murder, arson, and residential burglary as well as multiple felony convictions. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 3.