Suspect arrested in 1984 slaying

Reprinted with permission by the Tulsa World
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition), Page A11 of News

Nicole Marshall, World Staff Writer

A California man is accused of killing a 2-year-old boy while he was living in Tulsa in 1984.

A California man was charged Thursday with the 1984 killing of a 2-year-old Tulsa boy and was arrested later in the day by San Bernadino police on a first-degree murder warrant.

Ray Velez Martinez is accused of killing Steven Ballandby, court records show. Martinez formerly dated the child’s mother, but she broke up with him shortly after Steven’s death, Tulsa Police Detective Danielle Bishop said during a phone interview from California.

Martinez was baby-sitting Steven and his brother on March 17, 1984. At the time of the child’s death, Martinez told police that he took the boys to the park and that Steven was injured when he fell off a merry-go-round, newspaper reports show.

The child became ill at his home that night, and his mother and Martinez took him to a hospital.

“We do believe that they went to the park, because both kids were muddy when they came home, and it had been raining that day,” Bishop said. “But we have determined that the injuries were not consistent with a fall.”

She said Steven’s death was ruled a homicide by the Medical Examiner’s Office in 1984. At the time of his death, police said he apparently died from blood loss due to a liver injury, newspaper reports show.

Martinez moved to California later that year, Bishop said.

The case then stalled for several years until detectives reopened it in 2000, she said.

“Child abuse investigations have come a long way in 20 years. We took the case and the autopsy report and presented it to forensic pediatricians and asked them whether this sort of injury could have happened like he (Martinez) said,” Bishop said.

A pediatrician concurred with the medical examiner that the death was not accidental and that it was the result of “blunt force trauma to the abdomen,” she said.

Detectives had to relocate all of the witnesses and interview them about the child’s death. The boy’s mother still lives in the Tulsa area, she said.

Detectives presented the evidence to the District Attorney’s Office, and the first-degree murder charge was filed Thursday. In preparation for the warrant, Bishop contacted the San Bernadino Police, and they found Martinez.

Bishop and Detective Darren Carlock went to California on Wednesday night so they could interview Martinez there after his arrest.

Bishop credited a multidisciplinary team — doctors, police, prosecutors and social service agencies at the Tulsa Children’s Justice Center — with helping solve the case.

The center, at 2829 S. Sheridan Road, is operated by the nonprofit Child Abuse Network and houses representatives from five agencies.

“The difference between this case now and the case 20 years ago is the team approach,” Bishop said.

At the Children’s Justice Center, “police work close with the doctors not only to catch child abuse but to prove that accidents sometimes do happen. They work to prove the differences between accidental injuries and injuries caused by abuse,” she said.