Arizona police have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a 60-year-old food delivery driver—and they say the victim helped crack the case with a photo she took on her phone.
Rusty French, 62, is charged with the second-degree murder of Pamela Martinez on June 11 in Glendale. According to cops, French admits being at the scene of the slaying but said he must have blacked out.
Glendale police have not released any details on a possible motive but they noted that French and Martinez did not know each other and that Martinez had not delivered food to French that night.
“A stranger ended up taking her life over nothing,” Martinez’s 27-year-old daughter, Monique Daniels, told The Daily Beast.
She said her mother moved from Colorado to Arizona in 2004 and worked for two local colleges, doing Uber Eats runs in her free time to make extra money.
The widowed mom of two was saving up for a baby shower for Daniels, who has a young son and is eight months pregnant, and to take her boyfriend to a casino for his birthday.
Daniels said that the day of the shooting, Martinez came home around 5:30 p.m. to drop off some drinks for her and her son and then went out for a few deliveries.
She called at 7:11 p.m., said she was done, and asked Daniels to get her bag ready. She would be home in 20 minutes and planned to spend the night with her boyfriend, she said.
“And I never heard from her again,” Daniels said.
A witness told police that before the shooting, she saw Martinez sitting in her car on the side of the road with a man standing outside. He got into a van parked next to her and drove off.
That’s when Martinez’s car rolled off the road into a landscaping area—and responding police found her dead inside.
“Through the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Martinez had completed her last food delivery and for some reason took a photograph from her cell phone of a man sitting in his van alongside of her vehicle,” police said in a statement.
“The man was later identified as Rusty French.”
French, who lives in Peoria, was identified from the picture and called in for questioning. Authorities also searched his home and seized handguns, including one that was matched to the shooting by ballistics, police said.
Daniels said she believes the shooting was a road-rage incident, that her mother and French exchanged words after some sort of traffic conflict and that she deliberately took the photo as evidence.
“I know she knew what was going to happen,” she said. “And she was not going to let it happen without doing something.”
She said the family is devastated. Martinez was a strong-willed, vibrant woman who was into body-building well into her fifties—a “health nut” who loved sports and drank nutritious smoothies all day.
She doted on Daniels’ son, Elijah, who bears the name of a son that Martinez lost, and cherished two other grandkids who live in Colorado with her daughter, Errica.
“We thought she would be with us another 40 years the way she was going,” Daniels said.
She’s gratified that her mother played a role in capturing the man now accused in her murder.
“I’m happy they got him and justice will be served, but it won’t fix anything,” she said. “We don’t have her.”
A woman who answered the phone at French’s home declined to comment to The Daily Beast. It’s not clear if he has retained an attorney.