Marin Homicide Suspect, 17, Was Arrested a Week Earlier in Rape Case
A Novato High School student who allegedly murdered a classmate last month was arrested on suspicion of raping another classmate the week before the homicide, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Juan Carlos Martinez Henriquez, 17, was booked into Marin County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of rape and sodomy on May 18, sources said. The alleged victim, a 15-year-old Novato High School student, reported she was assaulted at about 1 p.m. near campus at the end of Tyler Street.
Two days later, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office released Martinez without charges pending further investigation.
A week after that, Martinez allegedly murdered Edwin Ramirez Guerra, 17, also a student at Novato High School.
Despite widespread speculation that the sexual assault of a student was a factor leading to the homicide, authorities have not asserted such a connection. The prosecution has described the murder as gang-related, although the investigation is continuing.
Police also say there is no link between the homicide and another alleged sexual assault reported three months ago on the Novato High School campus. In that case, a 16-year-old student was accused of violating a younger classmate at about 5:30 or 6 p.m. March 11, a Friday. Novato police are still conducting the follow-up investigation and have not arrested the suspect.
Martinez returns to court on June 29. He is charged as an adult in the homicide case.
Authorities are still investigating the alleged rape reported a week before the homicide. District Attorney Ed Berberian said he could not comment on the rape investigation because it is a juvenile matter.
The homicide occurred May 25 in the open space area near the end of Fairway Drive in the Country Club neighborhood of Novato. Authorities said three attackers ambushed Edwin Guerra and another Novato High School student, Llefferson Diaz, 17.
Both victims were shot and hacked with a machete. Diaz survived and called 911. Guerra was pronounced dead at the scene.
Martinez was arrested in a raid the next day. So was Edwin Guevara, 16, also a Novato High School student. Guevara, like Martinez, has been charged as an adult.
The third suspected attacker, Guevara’s brother Javier, 19, remains a fugitive. Authorities said he is a gang member.
The three defendants are charged with the murder of Guerra and the attempted murder of Diaz.
A fourth defendant, Elmer Machado-Rivera, 20, of San Rafael, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Machado-Rivera, a close friend of suspect Martinez, allegedly drove him home after the homicide and did not report the attack to authorities. He has pleaded not guilty.
In recent weeks, Novato school officials have made efforts to assure the community the campus is safe.
The day after the alleged afternoon rape was reported on May 18, Novato High School Principal Matt Baldwin sent an email to parents reporting that Novato police were investigating an “incident off campus” involving a male student and a female student. It did not specify the nature of the alleged crime.
“The District is doing everything necessary to ensure that Novato High School is a safe educational environment for all students,” Baldwin said.
On June 3, in the aftermath of the homicide, district Superintendent Jim Hogeboom wrote a letter to parents saying that “ensuring our students are safe, both physically and mentally, continues to be our top priority in Novato Unified, and we will review past practices to see what else we can do to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
“This crime did not take place on our school campus, and I continue to believe that Novato High School and all of our schools are safe places for our students,” he added. “I promise that we will do everything we can to not only address the gang issue, but also to ensure that all students feel included, supported and valued on our school campuses.”
Neither Baldwin’s email nor Hogeboom’s message mention the alleged on-campus sexual assault in March, and it was unclear if administrators notified parents about it. Administrators did not provide an answer to that question when contacted Thursday.
In an interview last week about campus security, Hogeboom said the district has a private company, North Bay Security, to provide some presence in the schools. But he said there has not been a need to have police or private security on campus all day.
“We do a lot of prevention with kids at risk,” said Bill Welch, a former Novato police officer who founded the company in 2010. “There are two full-time (security) positions. We check in at all the schools at least once a day. We’re on campus at breaks and lunch.”