Criminal Justice

“Is That All I’m Worth?”

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That question is one of the details in court information filed by Lake County investigators building a case in the murder of Mary Austgen.
Investigators are sharing details about the final hours of a slain Northwest Indiana business woman. Mary Austgen was found shot to death inside her sports utility vehicle in the Majestic Star Casino parking garage last month. When murder charges were filed Thursday in connection with the case, the court documents revealed new information about the crime.
For example, Thomas Austgen told police that he last saw his mother, Mary, at their family business in Griffith at 4:30 p.m. March 28th. According to court documents, just thirty minutes later as she prepared to leave for the day Austgen was forced back inside the business at gunpoint by a man who had once leased space in the same complex. Ralph Perez Martinez is charged with her murder, robbery and criminal confinement. A probable cause affidavit in the case says that surveillance video from the Austgen business shows Martinez entering the building at 2:42 p.m. Records suggest that he might have waited in a public bathroom more than two hours before he reappears on the video with a gun, grabbing Austgen as she attempts to leave. Martinez allegedly led Austgen back to her office where the two remained for about twenty minutes before leaving in Austgen’s vehicle.
The next day when Austgen’s son reported her missing police used Onstar vehicle tracking technology to locate her SUV in the parking garage of Majestic Star Casino in Gary. Security personnel found Austgen dead in the passenger seat from a gunshot to the abdomen. Police soon released images from the casino surveillance video of the same man … believed to be Martinez exiting the garage. Weeks later with no suspect in custody police also released photos of two diamond rings which were believed to be taken from Austgen and announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Court documents say that Martinez’s exwife saw photos of the rings and the suspect on local news that night and recognized him. She remembered seeing one of the rings in her home but believed that it belonged to her daughter. Martinez, who was staying with the family at the time, also saw the photos and reportedly replied, “That’s not me.” However, when the reward was announced Martinez’s exwife says his response was, “Is that all I’m worth?” She went to police the next day, and Martinez was arrested hours later.
During an initial hearing Thursday Martinez was advised to hire an attorney for his next court appearance May 3rd.

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