(Reuters) - An alleged Mexican drug cartel hitman was charged on Tuesday with nine murders in a killing spree spanning three decades in California, Central California officials said.
Jose Manuel Martinez, a California native awaiting trial in Alabama since 2013 on a separate murder charge, could face the death penalty if convicted, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said in a statement.
Martinez was charged with stabbing and shooting nine victims ranging from 22-years-old to 56-years-old between 1980 and 2011, said Ward. He was also charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and murder for financial gain.
Martinez allegedly shot a 56-year-old man in his bed in 2000 and dumped at least three bullet-ridden bodies in orange groves in Tulare and Kern Counties, Ward said.
Martinez was arrested by U.S. border police in western Arizona in 2013 after a records check showed that he was wanted on a homicide charge in Alabama's Lawrence County. He told investigators he was a debt collector for a Mexican drug cartel.
After being sent to Alabama, Martinez was charged with the execution-style killing of Jose Ruiz, a man who allegedly "disrespected" his daughter, said Tim McWhorter, captain of the investigation division at the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Michael Perry)
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