A year ago, Tulare County native Jose Manuel Martinez was facing 10 life terms in prison before a trial in Florida that could have resulted in the death penalty. But after testimony from his family, painting Martinez as nothing but a loving father, uncle, and brother, he was spared, and given another life sentence.
He confessed to killing three dozen people over the course of 30 years as an assassin for hire. Many of those murders took place in the southern Central Valley where he went by the moniker, “El Mano Negra,” the black hand.
His crimes are the subject of a new book by Buzzfeed investigations editor Jessica Garrison called “The Devil’s Harvest.”
In the interview above, Garrison talks about what it was like to piece together Martinez’s life, and how he got away with so many murders. She also explains why it was important to include stories about where Martinez lived, a census-designated community in Tulare County called Earlimart. The poor community has seen indifference from local leaders, and many who live there are reluctant to trust law enforcement, which made it easy for Martinez and other criminals to succeed. In the wake of the neglect, there are also activists rising up within the community, demanding change, attention and resources.