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Grady Judd: $10,000 for information on missing teen

11:49 PM, Aug 27, 2010   |    comments
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Winter Haven, Florida - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has seen a lot of crime during his years in law enforcement. 

This case in particular, he says, is heartbreaking. 

"You just don't see teenagers vanish. It's very rare," the sheriff says.

The sheriff admits it tears him apart when he talks about the case of a missing Polk County teenager named Marco Martinez.

The 16-year-old vanished without a trace five months ago, and no one has seen him since.

The sheriff is frustrated.

"We've talked to friends. We've talked to family. We've talked to everybody we can talk to, and we're looking for help," Judd says.

Marco was a dutiful son, devoted uncle and good student.  He would have never gone missing or run away.

He was not in trouble with the law.  In fact, everyone always talked about how responsible he was.

Marco's sister, Julie, wipes away tears as she talks about her brother and begs for answers.

"We don't know if he's alive or dead.  All we want is a phone call to say that he's okay," said Julie Martinez.

Most of all, Marco loved his three-year-old niece. 

She was the light of his life.  Rarely would you see him without her on his arm.  He babysat all the time and adored her.

Sheriff Judd said, "He was very responsible with his niece. They just said he absolutely would never have left that three-year-old by herself."

That's what makes this case even stranger.

The day Marco went missing, he picked up Analeese after school and took her home.  He spoke with his mother briefly by cell phone. 

When she called back moments later to ask him if he wanted pizza for dinner, the phone went straight to voicemail.

Marco never picked up on the other end.

Julie said, "He wouldn't leave my child by herself. He wouldn't leave my child alone. He wouldn't leave his money."

The sheriff is trying to come up with answers, but no one is talking.

"We have investigated and investigated and investigated. He is officially a missing person, but we fear he may be the victim of a homicide," Judd said.

The sheriff wants so badly for this case to be solved that he upped the reward money to $10,000, the highest ever for a teenager.

He has promised the money to anyone who could bring them to Marco dead or alive.

"Is there someone else we can talk to that we haven't talked to?  Someone in our community knows where he is, or knows what happened to him. $10,000 cash just to give us information."

Sheriff Judd says his team of detectives has talked with one person in particular named Santos Hernandez, who is said to have been the last person to see Marco alive.  However, Hernandez has not been named as an official suspect.

Until Marco is found, his mother keeps a candle burning inside their home, hoping one day that he will walk back in the door.

To read more about Sheriff Grady Judd and Crime Stoppers in Polk County, click here.

Melanie Brooks

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