Former judge dies in suspected murder-suicide

Herbert Curtis.

At 11:05 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, the Ventura Police Department Command Center received a call from a resident in the 5500 block of Dorsey Street, reporting that her neighbors were involved in a verbal domestic disturbance. Officers who arrived at the scene were met with the sound of gunfire from within the residence and immediately took cover, establishing a perimeter.

Inside, retired Ventura County Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis, 69, held hostage Patricia Payne, 54, while the Crisis Negotiations Team worked with Curtis. After two hours passed, the SWAT team deployed a listening device, which alerted officers that Payne had been shot.

When additional gunshots were heard, SWAT team members entered the residence, during which time Curtis turned the gun on himself. Payne was taken to the Ventura County Medical Center immediately and treated, but later succumbed to her wounds. Curtis was pronounced dead on the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Curtis served as a municipal court judge from 1984 serving as presiding judge in 1991 and was appointed as a Superior Court Judge in 1998, where he served until his retirement in 2007.

The Superior Court of California, Ventura County, released a statement following the incident.

“The news of his passing is met with great sadness. Judge Curtis invested decades of service to the County of Ventura, initially as a criminal prosecutor and thereafter as a judge. The Court acknowledges Judge Curtis’ contributions and extends its condolences to his family.”

Meanwhile, Payne’s sister, Shauna Payne-Boyd, expressed outrage over the media coverage following the shooting. It had been reported that Payne-Boyd, in an email to the VC Star, wrote that her family is “sick to [their] stomachs” over press statements released expressing sympathy for Curtis’ family without mentioning Payne, his victim.

Santa Paula man sentenced for 2016 manslaughter

Victor Antonio Giovani Martinez

On July 22, 2016, Victor Antonio Giovani Martinez, driving a red sedan, struck a vehicle while traveling on State Route 126 and drove away from the scene. An officer spotted Martinez exiting on Kimball Road, where a pursuit began, during which Martinez blew through a red light and collided with motorcyclist Richard Lunsford, an 80-year-old man.

Now, Martinez, 24, has been sentenced to 11 years and eight months in prison for vehicular manslaughter. Other charges filed against Martinez included one felony count of fleeing the scene of an accident involving death. After striking and killing the motorist, Martinez fled the scene and was later captured by police officers.

Martinez was also charged with one felony count of evading an officer causing death, one felony count of carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, and one count of hit and run, with special allegations that Martinez committed these crimes while released on bond in a pending criminal case and that he fled the scene of a crime.