California Mom Found Brutally Murdered with 4 Others Had a Heart of Gold, Friend Tells PEOPLE

A friend describes the mother as a compassionate doctor with a heart of gold

Photo: Modesto Police Dept.

A friend of Amanda Crews, the Modesto, California, mother who was found murdered with four others at her home over the weekend, remembers her as a compassionate doctor with a heart of gold.

“She really loved her career and was good at it,” Dr. Mary Harris tells PEOPLE. “She was solid and real. She listened with all of her heart and she didn’t tell you lies.”

Adds Harris about the Boston University medical school graduate who loved NASCAR and ’90s Boston Bands: “She had a laugh that would light the world on fire. If she was laughing near you, you would have to join in. You couldn’t be close to the laugh and not share it.”

Police found the bodies of 38-year-old Crews, Crews’ 6-month-old daughter Rachel and her 6-year-old daughter Elizabeth, along with two others, after a friend called police when Crews didn’t show up for a scheduled lunch date. Also found dead at the Nob Hill Court home were Crews’ ex-boyfriend’s mother, Anna Brown Romero, and a 5-year-old girl who was also a relative.

Crews’ ex-boyfriend and Rachel’s father, Martin Martinez, is a suspect in the slayings but hasn’t been charged, Heather Graves, a spokesperson with the Modesto Police Department, tells PEOPLE. He is currently being held without bail in a Santa Clara County jail, however, after he was arrested Sunday for the October 2, 2014, murder of Crews’ 2-year-old son Christopher Ripley.

Martinez, 30, was living with Crews and the children until a few months ago when he was forced to move out because of a protective order filed by Child Protective Services, according to The Modesto Bee.

Police had been investigating Christopher’s death but it was only last week that a pathologist determined he died from blunt force trauma to the head. The arrest warrant was issued for Martinez just hours after the five bodies were discovered.

Harris says Crews had become increasingly frustrated with Martinez, who had tried to persuade her to allow him to see his daughter Rachel at night.

“She told me that Marty asked her to sneak him into the house so he could see Rachel and Amanda said no,” she says. “I won’t break the law for you. She sounded frustrated. Why would you risk jail and losing your medical license? Her saying no was the right thing to do.”

At the time of Christopher’s death, Crews told authorities that Martinez was a 50 percent caregiver of her children, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE. According to the report, day care staff had reported three suspicious injuries to Christopher around the time he was potty training. Crews denied that Martinez caused the injuries but “did agree that two of the injuries were at home when Martin Martinez was present.”

Martinez was babysitting Christopher when he received his fatal injury last year. His story about how the boy was injured changed several times, the report states.

In one instance, he told investigators that he had Christopher three feet off the ground when the boy fell back onto the floor and hit his head during a bout of wrestling. In another instance, he told a 911 operator that “I trip his legs underneath him, he fell back and hit the back of his head.” He also reported to 911 that he was “wrestling around, horse-playing, and I swept his legs and he hit the back of his head on the floor.”

The pathologist later concluded that the boy’s death was “consistent with Christopher’s head hitting the tile floor as a result of abuse.”

In divorce papers obtained by PEOPLE, Crews wrote that her ex-husband Timothy Ripley told their daughter Elizabeth that he believed Martinez had killed Christopher and he was going to prison for it. Crews hoped that Ripley would attend counseling but he declined.

“Elizabeth is very close to my boyfriend and the ideas implanted by the Respondent have caused Elizabeth to have recurring nightmares and negative behavior issues,” the papers state. “I have suggested to the Respondent multiple times that he and I should go to mediation or counseling to resolve his anger issues, but the Respondent has refused. I understand the Respondent is grieving the loss of our son, and that he has emotional pain, but his inability to comprehend how inappropriate and hurtful his comments are to Elizabeth requires me to step in and protect her.”

Harris says Crews always saw something of value in the people she dated.

“Sometimes to her credit and sometimes to her detriment,” she says. “She was one of the best humans I have known ever. There is no making sense of this one. It is just a shame.”

Martinez is scheduled to be extradited from Santa Clara County later this week.

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