A Timeline of Events

Within the span of 15 minutes, four year old Jessica Martinez was grabbed by an unknown assailant from her Bakersfield home. Her panicked mother rushed home when she heard the news that her precious daughter was missing. Despite the efforts of Jessica’s family, local law enforcement and national media attention, Jessica would never be seen alive again. Eleven days after her disappearance, Jessica’s body was discovered in a cotton field. Twenty-seven years later, her killer still remains unknown.

Here are the facts of the case:

  • On May 10, 1999, Jessica was playing outside at the Timber Cove Apartments (now Pine Brook Apartments) located at 5000 Belle Terrace in Bakersfield, California. Her stepfather was home while her mother, Nellie Martinez, was at work.
  • Jessica was playing with her brother about 40 feet away from their apartment. Their stepfather watched over them from a patio window. At some point he took his eyes off the children and in that time Jessica was gone. It is estimated that Jessica was abducted between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m.
  • The police were called and the search for Jessica was underway.
The Pine Brooks Apartments, formerly known as the Timber Cove Apartments where Jessica was kidnapped.

The Pine Brooks Apartments, formerly known as the Timber Cove Apartments where Jessica was kidnapped.

  • After five days, on May 15, 1990, police form an official task force to find Jessica after finding no trace of her anywhere.
  • On May 20, 1990, “America’s Most Wanted” aired on Fox featuring Jessica’s disappearance. Police receive 58 calls, but none of the tips lead to Jessica’s recovery.
  • On May 21st, 11 days after her disappearance, Jessica’s body was found partly buried in a cotton field 10 miles south of Bakersfield on Bear Mountain Boulevard near Ashe Road. A farm worker driving a tractor unearthed her body.
bear mountain ashe road bakersfield jessica martinez found

The approximate location where Jessica Martinez’s body was found. The map shows the route from the Timber Cove Apartments to Bear Mountain Boulevard and Ashe Road

  • Due to decomposition, an exact cause of death was never determined. However, the coroner could tell Jessica was strangled before her body was dumped in the cotton field. Police could not determine if she was molested.
  • According to a Bakersfield Police Detective, Jessica had been dead for a few days, so that left a week or so of unknown activity.
  • On April 22, 2008, Kern County District Attorney officials say they found male and female DNA on Martinez’ shorts.
  • The case remains open, but no arrests or charges have been filed in Jessica’s kidnapping or murder.

Suspects and Theories

Charles Lightsey jessica martinez murder

Charles Lightsey, 2015

Hundreds of people have been interviewed during Jessica’s murder investigation, including registered sex offenders living in and around the Timber Cove Apartments. One resident at the time of her disappearance was Christopher Lightsey, a convicted sex offender. Lightsey was convicted of molesting two girls and tried for inappropriately touching children at a grade school where he taught. His record also included several drug offenses.

charles lightsey court murderer

Charles Lightsey gagged after continually disrupting court proceedings, 1995

In 1993, Lightsey was arrested and eventually sent to death row for killing an elderly cancer patient by stabbing him 43 times. Detectives looked into Lightsey again as a possible suspect and paid the convict a visit. When asked about the case, Lightsey stormed out of the interview room. Lightsey’s DNA was compared to the samples taken from Jessica’s clothing, but they did not match.

jessica martinez murder bakersfield update

If you have any information about this case, please contact the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111