Mother charged with murdering 4 children and partner grins in court

A woman charged with killing four of her young children and their father smiled and posed for cameras during her first court appearance before telling a judge she did not want a lawyer.

Isabel Martinez, 33, appeared before Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Michael Thorpe a day after police said she stabbed the five to death and seriously injured another child at a home near Atlanta, Georgia.

Isabel Martinez

The injured child, a nine-year-old girl, survived but remained in hospital with injuries described by police as serious.

Before the hearing, Martinez sat with other inmates and struck poses for news cameras - smiling, giving a double thumbs up, putting her hands in a prayer position and spreading her arms out wide.

As Judge Thorpe listed the charges she faces - five counts of malice murder, five counts of murder and six counts of aggravated assault - Martinez smiled, shook her head "no" and wagged her finger at him.

The judge advised her sharply not to perform for the cameras.

When the judge informed her of her right to have a lawyer, she said through a Spanish-language interpreter that she did not want one. She later added that her lawyer will always be the people and her faith.

Judge Thorpe strongly advised Martinez to hire a lawyer or allow one to be appointed for her.

Gwinnett County police said in a statement: "What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand.

"This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighbourhood and community."

Martinez was detained after the bodies were found inside the home in Loganville, about 30 miles east of Atlanta, Gwinnett County Police Corporal Michele Pihera told reporters at the scene on Thursday morning.

Authorities have not said if Martinez was injured or discussed a motive.

"Right now we believe we have everybody involved in this crime," Cpl Pihera said.

She confirmed that the 911 call came from a woman who was inside the home to report a stabbing. Police believe Martinez made the call.

Cpl Pihera said the caller was speaking Spanish, which initially made it difficult for 911 operators to communicate with her.

The injured girl, Diana Romero, was in serious but stable condition on Thursday evening, police said.

The four children killed were identified as Isabela Martinez, 10, Dacota Romero, seven, Dillan Romero, four, and Axel Romero, two. Their father was Martin Romero, 33.

Early indications are that a knife was used to attack the five, although a medical examiner will make the final determination about the cause of death.

Some residents in the small, largely Hispanic neighbourhood said they had no clue anything was amiss in the home until police arrived on Thursday morning.

The neighbours said the Spanish-speaking family had moved to the community recently, and their children seemed happy playing with other neighbourhood children .

- AP

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