2015 trial set for man accused of killing Griffith business woman

2014-06-18T20:15:00Z 2014-06-18T22:32:25Z 2015 trial set for man accused of killing Griffith business womanElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 662-5331 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | An Illinois man charged in the slaying of a Griffith business owner is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 20.

The trial date was set Wednesday during a hearing in Lake County Criminal Court. Ralph Martinez, 59, of Alsip, faces charges of murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery, robbery and criminal confinement.

Martinez is accused of attacking at gunpoint Mary Austgen, 76, March 28, 2013, in her family's Griffith business, according to court records. The next day, she was reported missing by her family.

Austgen was found shot to death March 29, 2013, in the parking garage of the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, police said. Austgen, of St. John, died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. 

About a month after the fatal shooting, Martinez's ex-wife called police after seeing news reports about the homicide. She told police photos of the suspect resembled Martinez, and she told police she found a ring that might have belonged to Austgen, according to the affidavit. 

The woman told police that during a news broadcast about a reward being offered in the case, Martinez said, "Is that all I'm worth?"

Martinez was arrested and charged April 25, 2013.

He has spent the past couple of months in a series of court hearings trying to get bail set in the case. He is currently being held in the Lake County Jail without bail. 

In April 2013, Lake Criminal Court Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan found Martinez ineligible to be appointed a public defender because he has assets of at least $50,000.

In June of 2013, public defender Casey McCloskey was assigned to the case after Martinez told Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell that he wasn't able to hire a private attorney. 

A judge is expected to make a decision at the end of the summer on whether bail will be set in the case. A status hearing is set for Nov. 12 and a pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 17.

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