Chadron’s first murder trial in 13 years is underway. 20-year old Ian “Sage” Little Moon is charged with 1st-degree murder and felony use of a deadly weapon in the death of 72-year old John “JD” Martinez, who was shot in the head 5 times.
District Judge Travis O’Gorman set aside 3-days for the trial with jury selection held Wednesday morning at the Assumption Arena.
Because of concerns over finding an unbiased jury, O’Gorman called a much larger jury pool than usual and booked the arena for the process, which was closed to the public.
Ten men and 4 women were selected by noon for the panel of 12 jurors and 2 alternates. The trial itself began at 1:35 in the Dawes County Courthouse with Judge O’Gorman telling the jurors as they took their seats “it’s a little cozier in here.”
Lead prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General Doug Warner used his opening statements to lay out what happened in the aftermath of the shooting just before 2:00 am on July 23, 2021, and how the state would show Little Moon killed Martinez.
Lead defense counsel Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy told the jurors the case wasn’t a mystery or a whodunit, but instead revolved around a single word – intent – and that Little Moon wasn’t guilty of murder but of manslaughter.
Lancaster said it was “all about intent” and described LIttle Moon as confused and unable to remember much of that night, pointing out that he told investigators multiple times he didn’t know why he killed Martinez, who was the live-in significant other of his older sister and the father of 2 of her children.
The first 3 witnesses were Chadron police officers who recounted their actions in the minutes and hours after the first call of a shooting was received. They were followed by 2 Nebraska State Patrol investigators who detailed taking DNA and other evidence from the van, stolen from his mother, that Little Moon used to flee Chadron.
The 6th witness was Little Moon’s younger brother, 19-year old Sylas, who was living with his sister, Martinez, and their children. He testified his brother kept 2 guns in the house and had them in his possession just before the shooting.
Sylas said he was in the kitchen when he heard shots fired in the basement, where Martinez was killed in a bedroom, and that he saw Sage fire a shot in the living room before leaving the house.
The trial will resume in the morning.