Family Shot: A public GoFundMe site contained this undated picture of the Romero family. The site was set up by a family member and shows Martin Romero and his children. Photo: GoFundMe Romero Family Funeral and Medical Fund.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gwinnett mom felt “devil like spirit” before stabbing children, husband 

Lone surviving child recounts attack in child welfare report

Nine-year-old Diana Romero said she saw her mother stabbing her brothers, sister and father, but before the woman turned on Diana she told her that she was “going to the sky to see Jesus,” according to a state child welfare report obtained Wednesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The young girl cried and told her mother that she didn’t want to go to see Jesus, according to the report by the state Division of Family and Children Services. 

The DFCS documents include a caseworker’s notes on her interview with Diana, who describes in horrid detail watching her mother slay her siblings and father one by one in their Loganville home

 The child, for instance, says that her father tried to stop the mother but couldn’t. Isabel Martinez, 33, is accused of stabbing and killing her husband, 33-year-old Martin Romero, and four of her children, 2-year-old Axel, 4-year-old Dillan and 7-year-old Dacota Romero and 10-year-old Isabela Martinez, early on July 6.

Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance Friday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

She was charged with five counts of malice murder, five counts of murder and six charges of aggravated assault

The DFCS report also includes a interview with the mother in the Gwinnett jail, who says she is innocent and that the killings were performed by a “family friend,” but she provides no name. Martinez tell the DFCS caseworker that she tried to stop the friend and he cut her on the wrist.  Martinez also described a recent family trip to Savannah where, according to the report, she felt “a devil-like spirit” and where she felt the waves trying to take her and her children away.

IN DEPTH: A peaceful neighborhood, a monstrous crime

RELATED: Hundreds gather to mourn husband, 4 children slain in Gwinnett

The child welfare agency had one prior interaction with the family in September of 2015, when the agency received an accusation saying the father struck one of the daughters with a shoe and a phone charger at night when she wouldn’t sleep. It’s unclear in the report which daughter was being struck. The agency investigated and both parents admitted disciplining the children using a belt on their behinds. 

 But the agency found there were no safety threats and the case was closed soon after. 

“In Georgia corporal punishment crosses the line when there are welts or marks or bruises,” said Ashley Fielding Cooper, DFCS chief operating officer. “Based on the information we gathered in this case we determined that corporal punishment was used within the bounds of the law and that maltreatment did not occur.” 

On the deadly night of July 6, Diana Romero, a fourth-grader at Magill Elementary School, was stabbed by her mother, police say. She is the only survivor of the attacks. Family members have said she is steadily improving but has a long road to recovery both physically and mentally.

In a small mobile home community in Gwinnett, Isabel Martinez was charged with multiple counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of four of her children and their father. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

The caseworker spoke with Diana at 12:15 p.m. July 10. Before she opened up to the caseworker about the attacks, the child talked about having fun on the beach in Savannah. She said her mother and father did not fight while the family was away. She said her mother seemed normal when they all came home. 

Diana said the police had never come to her home before.  As she began to speak about that night, Diana cried, the report said. She said everyone seemed to be asleep when the trouble started. 

She said she saw her mother take the knife out of the kitchen and start cutting her brothers and sister.

A public GoFundMe site set up by family member identified the surviving child as Diana. The site says Diana remains in the hospital and is expected to stay there for another two to three weeks to recover from her injuries. The site is seeking donations to cover the family’s funeral and medical costs. Photo: GoFundMe Romero Family Funeral and Medical Fund.

Her father rushed into the living room and tried to get help, but when he was walking to the door, she cut him too, according to the report. 

Diana told the caseworker that, watching all this before her, she could not move. She said her mother was not crying or screaming during the stabbings, the report said. She said her mother called the police after she cut herself. Five of the family members were dead when police arrived at the home in the pre-dawn hours.

Martinez said that before police arrived she placed all the bodies in the same room so they could be together.

In a subsequent court appearance Martinez exhibited bizarre behavior, smiling and giving cameras the thumbs-up sign

 On Tuesday, the attorney for the woman said she will not undergo a psychological evaluation at this stage in her case, but could later on.

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