Family Asks for Help in Solving Decades-old Killing of Marines

The Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay maintains and operates the airfield facilities of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in support of the readiness and global projection of DoD and military operating forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay maintains and operates the airfield facilities of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in support of the readiness and global projection of DoD and military operating forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The older brother of one of two Marines killed in 1980 was in Hawaii this week for the first time since the double slaying to plead for the public's help in solving the case.

"I never wanted to visit Hawaii because of the pain of losing my brother," said Joseph Padilla of Denver at a news conference Monday. "But now I'm able to help him by asking you for your help."

Padilla spoke at Maunalua Bay Beach Park, where the bodies of Marine Lance Cpls. Rodney "Rocky" Padilla, 21, and Lawrence Martens, 19, were found after they were killed execution style.

A reward of up to $16,000 is being offered for any information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for the killings. Of that sum, $10,000 is from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, $5,000 is from the Padilla family and $1,000 from CrimeStoppers.

At about 6:40 a.m. Sept. 7, 1980, police said, a boat operator discovered the two men's bodies under a kiawe tree near a boat ramp. Both were assigned to the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.

Police said both were found lying on the ground in the open parking lot next to a blue 1971 Buick with a Hawaii license plate. A 1980 Honolulu Advertiser story said the two men borrowed the car from another Marine.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office said each man died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Joseph Padilla visited the site for the first time Saturday and created a makeshift rock memorial, where he placed a lei.

As he stood near the water Monday, Padilla said, "This might've been the last thing he'd seen. It tears you up. It's not easy."

At the joint news conference with NCIS, Honolulu police Maj. Larry Lawson of the Criminal Investigation Division said police received a tip within the last year that helped them move forward "a little bit" in the unsolved case.

"But we still need the public's help," he said. "We are imploring the people of Oahu who may know something to come forward and say something."

Lawson declined to elaborate on the tip, saying only that investigators have access to DNA technology that was unavailable decades ago.

NCIS Special Agent-in-Charge Tony Cox said, "Often in cold case investigations, it is one piece of information that puts everything into context and allows law enforcement to arrest and prosecute a murderer who has remained anonymous for decades."

Rodney Padilla, the youngest of four, was born in Colorado and was a star athlete at Ranum High School in Westminster, Colo., north of Denver. He joined the Marines after he graduated in 1978 and was at the top of his recruit class.

Padilla's brother said he was being promoted to drill sergeant at the time of his death and had plans to become a police officer after his service in the military.

A 1980 Honolulu Star-Bulletin story said Padilla was a crewman aboard amphibious assault vehicles and stationed in Hawaii for 18 months.

Padilla was deployed aboard a ship off the coast of Pakistan for several months after Russia invaded Afghanistan.

"A few weeks later after he returned, he was killed," his brother said. "He didn't deserve it. Nobody had the right to take his life."

Two weeks ago Joseph Padilla received a call from NCIS investigator Philip Camero and an analyst who informed him they had reopened the case. Shocked and overjoyed, Padilla said, "This was an answer to my prayers."

Their father died 10 years ago with unanswered questions about what happened to his youngest son. Padilla's brother said he hopes their mother, Maggie Crissy, 81, will see some resolution in the case.

"Please help me bring closure for Rocky and my family."

In an emailed statement, Martens' sister, Melissa Franken De Pere, said, "My brother Larry had his life taken away from him way too early. I miss him and wonder how things would be if he was still a part of our family. He was a great big brother that I looked up to when growing up."

She added, "This tragic event took place when I was in eighth grade and I will never forget that day even though it has been over 30 years since it happened. It has been really hard to find closure because we don't know what actually happened and who did this. I hope that the case being reopened will help to find some answers."

A 1980 Star-Bulletin story said Martens, originally from Wisconsin, was an auto mechanic with the Brigade Service Support Group. He had been stationed in Hawaii for two years.

Anyone with information is urged to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

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