Breckenridge Texan

September 27
12:37 2017

In his third day of testimony in the murder trial at the Stephens County Courthouse, Wednesday morning Graham police investigator Jeff Smith described the discovery of Leah Martin’s remains in August 2015. Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair is on trial for Martin’s murder.

After receiving information and photographs from friends of Martin, Smith said, he obtained a search warrant and went to the rural property where Ross Hellams and his family had once lived. Hellams is also charged with murder in the case.

Based on the photos he had seen, Smith began investigating the area around an old horse trailer on the property, he testified.

“In the area, we had smelled the odor that’s very distinct — once you smell it, you never forget it — the odor of decomposition,” Smith said.

Smith said the investigators on the scene used a backhoe and began removing dirt from an area next to the trailer.

“With each scoop, the odor of decomposition was getting stronger and stronger,” he said. “About the third scoop in depth, we saw a pant leg and then we saw a leg sticking out.”

The digging was immediately stopped and the area cordoned off, Smith testified. With the assistance of Texas Ranger Toby Caitlin, some of the searchers began to dig by hand.

“That day, we moved dirt from around her leg,” Smith said. “Due to the decomposition of the body, the body was so fragile. So, we stopped all our digging and contacted the University of North Texas Anthropology Department.”

Officers stood guard over the site all night, he said. The next day, with assistance from the university and more Texas Rangers, the body that would later be identified as Leah Martin was exhumed and taken to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

In September 2015, the autopsy report confirmed the identification of the body and defined the manner of death as homicidal violence with the possibility of asphyxiation.

Smith’s testimony is expected to continue in the afternoon.

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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