A little more than three months ago, Andrez D. Martina moved back to Milwaukee from Indiana to build a relationship with his grandchildren. On Saturday, he asked to host two grandsons, ages 12 and 8, overnight.
In the middle of the night, he woke up, thought money was missing from his wallet, and began assaulting both boys, ultimately focusing on the older one.
Martina, 53, beat Andre R. Smith II with a mallet, a sledgehammer, two belts, a coat rack and a cane over the course of 60 to 90 minutes in his home on the 4600 block of North 46th Street on Milwaukee’s north side.
Those gruesome details and more are alleged in a criminal complaint charging Martina with five felonies, including first-degree intentional homicide, in connection with Andre’s death Sunday. The grandfather faces life in prison.
The attack was witnessed by Martina’s mother, who is disabled and could not intervene, the complaint said, and by Andre’s 8-year-old brother, who suffered a broken finger and bruising.
Andre made two attempts to escape, at one point running out of the home and at another, locking himself in a bathroom. But Martina was able to grab him the first time and drag him back into the home, and, later, pick the lock of the bathroom, the complaint said.
In an interview with police, Martina said he had told the boys in the past, “If you lie, if you mess up in school, if you steal, I’m going to kill you,” the complaint said.
He told police he lost control in beating Andre, and “will have to deal with this (expletive) for the rest of my life.”
Martina was previously convicted of first-degree reckless homicide in Milwaukee County in 1990, online court records show.
Andre’s death comes during a wave of violence involving young people in Milwaukee. Between Aug. 23 and Aug. 30, the city experienced nine homicides, with seven of the victims between 12 and 19 years of age, including Andre.
“It is inconceivable to me that anyone could use such force to cause harm and fatal injuries to a child, or anyone,” Ald. Khalif Rainey, who represents the area where Andre was attacked, said in a statement. “This heinous and unspeakable violence simply cannot happen and must be strongly denounced in the community.”
'That smile was so infectious'
Illysha McCroy, Andre’s grandmother and legal guardian, said in a Journal Sentinel interview that Andre experienced a rough upbringing and had been seeing trauma and crisis therapists for the last year. He had been showing progress, she said.
“I was gradually getting him back to trying to be a kid,” she said. “He was that light in a dark place, even though he had a rough childhood. He was just bright. I don’t see how people can harm kids period, but especially not Andre. That smile he had was so infectious.”
The grandmother described Andre as a “real people person” who enjoyed watching his older brothers play basketball and talked about one day becoming an architect.
She said he spent much of his free time building things on video games such as Minecraft and Roblox, or with Legos or anything else available.
“He was just real crafty,” she said.
McCroy said Martina's early efforts to build a relationship with the boys had been pleasant. He worked up the street from the family home at an ice cream parlor. He would bring them treats and take them shopping.
The morning after the beating, Martina sent McCroy a text accusing Andre of stealing. When she asked where Andre was, Martina indicated the child was hurt.
The grandmother went to the house with her daughter and her boyfriend. The boyfriend took Andre to Children's Wisconsin, where he was pronounced dead.
McCroy said she “never thought in a million, million years something like this would happen.”