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Peter Martinez and the Cement Shoes

“One of the things about being in a gang is, you gotta follow orders. So far everything they asked me to do, I done it.”

~Billy Bathgate (1991 Film)

Tie the victim to a chair. Put his feet in a bucket of quick-dry concrete. Let the concrete set. Take him out, and dump him in the water. He’s drowned quickly and the body is weighted down. Sounds like a simple way to dispose of someone.

With references stretching back to the 1950s of mobsters gifting their victims with a pair of cement shoes, you’d think it’s fairly common for big-city police to find drowned bodies in that condition. But the first victim that actually was found with cement shoes was in 2016. He would be widely considered by historians as the first documented victim of cement shoes but maybe not the first to have suffered this fate.

One of the most widely known mentions of cement shoes in literature was from 1989, with E.L. Doctorow’s novel Billy Bathgate. Billy was a 15-year-old Irish American boy who ran with a bad crowd. He lived in the Bronx and worked to support his family, who were living in absolute poverty. One day, Billy witnesses a murder while at the laundromat where he worked. The victim was kidnapped at gunpoint, tied to a chair and his feet were placed one foot at a time into a laundry tub… full of wet cement. The cement slowly sets and the victim is left to think about what will happen next. Once his cement shoes are well and truly on, he is thrown into the East River of New York City. Never to be seen again.

On Monday the 2nd of May, 2016, a body washed up on the shores of Sheepshead Bay, near Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. It didn’t take long to understand what had happened to the man. His head and hands had been wrapped in duct tape, his torso was wrapped in plastic bags, and his feet… well, his feet weren’t exactly visible. They had been placed in a five-gallon bucket and covered with cement. But who was this man, and what had he done to have deserved his cement shoes?

The body was quickly identified as 28-year-old, Peter Martinez, who was known on the streets as Petey Crack. Peter had been reported missing 4 months earlier by his girlfriend. She last saw him on the 7th of February, getting his hair braided at a barbershop that happened to be close to where his body was later found. At the time his body was discovered, he was wearing gray sweatpants, blue boxers, and a black jacket. All items were still intact. His back tattoo, of the Virgin Mary holding a rose, was still clear. The tattoo is how police were able to identify Peter so quickly, as it had been described in his missing persons file.

New York Police Chief of Detectives, Robert Bryce, said the following at a press conference regarding the case, “This individual was wrapped in plastic bags and his arms were tied behind him and his feet were submerged in concrete. Obviously a homicide.”

Peter’s body was discovered by a college student who had been out for a walk on the Kingsborough Community College campus. Strong currents must have washed his body ashore, despite the fact he had been fitted with a homemade anchor and cement shoes in a clear attempt to keep him from being found. It’s also possible that the cement was incorrectly mixed and the presence of air bubbles let his body float to the surface.

Peter had quite the criminal record before his death and had been arrested 31 times. His records include arrests for possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon. His longest stint in prison was for 2 years from 2011 to 2013 after being convicted of identity theft. He had also been shot in the leg in 2008. This scar was still visible, 8 years later, when his body was discovered. Police believed Peter was a high-ranking member of the G Stone Crips, an infamous street gang that originated in Los Angeles.

Peter’s girlfriend allegedly told a police officer that Peter owed someone a lot of money and that he wronged someone. While it’s likely Peter’s murder is rooted in some sort of gang affiliation, the police have been unable to link anyone specific to this case.

How Did It Happen?

To place a victim in cement shoes, they first have to be incapacitated, because if they move around, the cement won’t set tight around their feet and they theoretically, would be able to wiggle free.

Their feet will either be put in the bucket first before the cement is poured in, or their feet will be placed into a container already filled with wet cement. Now, this is where the waiting game begins. Cement shoes are not a quick method of disposal because they can take 24 to 48 hours to set. If you want to psychologically torture someone for hours while the cement hardens around their feet this is certainly the way to do it. If you’re in a hurry, this method won’t work.

What the Police Found

Peter was found with his hands tied behind his back and they were wrapped in duct tape. His torso was wrapped in plastic and his head was covered in duct tape. His feet were in cement and in two five-gallon buckets.

After an autopsy was performed, it was discovered that Peter’s cause of death was asphyxia after his mouth and nose were covered with duct tape. This means that he hadn’t been placed in the water while he was alive, which makes an all-around awful situation a little bit easier. The thought of someone being dumped alive to sink to the bottom of Sheepshead Bay is truly horrifying.

The details of 28-year-old Peter Martinez’s murder, are as murky as the water he was pulled from. Maybe one day, someone will be persuaded to talk but in all likelihood, after what happened to Peter, the case will most likely remain cold. For now, Peter Martinez will now be remembered as the man whose death brought the stuff of legend and fiction to reality.