LaGRANGE — It took 12 Troup County Superior Court jurors less than two hours Thursday to find Celestino “Hector” Acuño-Martinez, 41, of LaGrange, guilty of molesting and raping two young girls.
The jurors found Martinez unanimously guilty on all 12 charges against him, including four counts of child molestation, two counts of rape, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy and enticing a child for indecent purposes.
Martinez remained expressionless as the verdict was read out loud in the courtroom.
“Of course we were disappointed in the speed of the verdict, but you never know what will happen in a jury trial,” said Martinez’s defense attorney, Julianne Lynn. “I still maintain my client’s innocence as I believe anybody would who closely looked at the evidence.”
“I am very appreciative of the jury’s verdict,” stated Troup County Senior Assistant District Attorney Lynda Caldwell by email. “The evidence was overwhelming, and the quick verdict reflects this. … The defendant forfeited his right to remain in society when he committed these heinous acts.”
Martinez committed the sexual abuse in LaGrange between August 2013 and March 2015. His victims were two girls ages 9 and 11 years old.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Martinez immediately after the verdict was read.
“You’ve seen and heard the despicable acts he has done to these children your honor,” said Caldwell. “When you act like an animal, you should be caged up like an animal.”
Sakrison tentatively agreed and addressed Martinez before formally sentencing him.
“I have to say that this is some pretty disturbing conduct … I can’t fathom the long term effects of what this might have on the children,” he said.
“But I do have other concerns as well,” Sakrison added, though he did not elaborate what those concerns were to the court.
The judge then handed down Martinez’ punishment: four life sentences, 30 years each, plus 20 years to serve in a state penitentiary.
If Martinez should ever get out on probation he would have to register as a sex offender.
Caldwell said she was pleased with the Sakrison’s ruling.
“The judge’s harsh sentence should prevent him from walking free ever again, and I am thankful for that,” she stated. “My only hope and prayer is that these precious children will be able to live a normal and happy life. They are now in a loving and happy home with a relative.”
“The judge did what he had to do with the verdict. I hold no ill feelings whatsoever against Judge Sakrison. He tried a very fair trial,” Lynn said via email. “My client will be appealing the conviction as soon as feasible and hopes that justice will be served in the appellate process.”
Martinez was immediately escorted by deputies back to the Troup County Jail after the sentence was read. He smiled as he left the courtroom.
This was the second time Martinez appeared in Superior Court before a jury and Judge Sakrison on these charges.
The first time was in April which ended in a mistrial after that group of 12 jurors told Judge Sakrison they were “hopelessly deadlocked” after deliberating less than six hours.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.