Army Pvt. Rosa Martinez, 21, from Elsa, Texas was found dead on April 11, 1987 at Fort Dix in New Jersey. She was attending an eight week cooking course at the base. Her body was discovered badly burned in a refuse bin on base. An autopsy report showed that she had died of strangulation after having been beaten about the head. Pvt. Jose Aponte, 18, of New Jersey was attending a truck driving training course at the base. Aponte admitted in court to knowing Martinez only by sight. The night she was killed they had shared a taxi on a return trip to base. He testified that he left the taxi with her and that when she objected to his advances, he punched her in the face and struck her in the head with a piece of brick. He tried to cover up his crimes by strangling her, throwing her in a refuse bin, and setting it on fire. Pvt. Aponte pleaded guilty to killing her after she resisted his advances. He was court-martialed, sentenced to 40 years of hard labor, and dishonorably discharged from the military.
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I was present at Ft. Dix when this occurred. I was the AOD at Walton Army Hospitas, Ft. Dix that Saturday morning. I physically helped the Dentist place the victim in the examination chair and x-ray her teeth so they could identify the body.
That must have been a tough job.
I was at the scene that day. The burning dumpster was reported the night before but was pushed aside because one of the MP’s was killed in a car accident and most on duty went there. In the morning it was reported again that it was smoldering so the fire department was sent and they found the body. We had thought initially that she was killed elsewhere and dumped there but while looking around I found some change and an Army Greens uniform button in a tiny stairwell at the back of the nearby building, indicating the crime scene. The nearby barracks where Aponte (the killer) was stationed were on a trip but a search warrant revealed his Dress Greens missing a button and he eventually confessed.
While removing the remaining dumpster contents, Martinez’ ID card was found, identifying her. Aponte lifted her into the dumpster because he was too frail to drag her the distance to leave her in the woods, like he planned. He threw her ID, etc in the dumpster before he threw her in and then set it on fire. Hoping to destroy all.
This was a tragic case from all sides.
Thanks for sharing. There is very little online about the situation. Wish we had a photo of Rosa.
I only have a news clipping photo of her but don’t see an icon for sharing a photo here.
Thank you! You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I remembered this very clearly because I was in AIT for Light Wheel Vehicle Mechanics Course (63B) at the time. I remember meeting her weeks before her death at the snack bar on post. She was very shy and and very quiet and nice as I was a bit shy myself but we talked for a while. I would see her from time to time around the post. I was shocked because it didn’t register to me that it was her that was found burning in a dumpster. I was distraught and thinking that how can someone harm such a wonderful person. I still think of her all these years and I’m glad they caught the guy afterwards. May she rest in peace.
It was a tragic scene and case all the way around.
She was my old high school classmate! Always shy and quiet. Such a tragedy for her to die the way she did.😢
I took my basic training there. By a miracle of God I survived. Bastards in a car were literally dragging me to take me!! My company soldiers came and saved me!!
I was there also for Ait 63b training we were going to see Dallas cowboys cheerleaders and I walked by the dumpster and saw it smoking a little but didn’t pay to much attention the next day all the companies were lined up out in ranks everyone was questioned day later they found the soldier responsible never forget that horrible Johnny stancil my Ds was Stephenson he looked like Popeye the sailor man with his brown round on.
I was a soldier there at this time. I was taking some trash out to the dumpsters that morning and next to the one I was headed to the CID had it taped off and the group of them were working the scene. I knew something bad had happened but didnt learn the details until we were called to the day room to be informed. Sad situation and a lot of uneasy nights for some until we heard they arrested a suspect. My barracks was not 30 yards from there.
Wayne, was Aponte in your company? He wasn’t there that day. He was on some sort of a trip while we were going over the scene but his Dress Greens coat with the missing button, gave him away.
I was in Pvt. Aponte’s unit and bunked across the hall from him in Alpha Company 365 transportation AIT unit when this gruesome incident took place in 1987. The image of Pvt. Martinez’s body being pulled out of the dumpster that early morning the day after still haunts me till this day. It was very foggy that morning outside and I was on CQ the night it happened. Aponte missed curfew that night and the drill sgt. told me to be on the look out for Aponte. I recall him saying “Aponte missed bed check and if you see him at the door do not let him in”. About 2hrs after that, I recall Aponte showing up at the door where I was inside on guard. I remember Aponte asking me to please let him in. I told him that I could not do that and that the drill sgt. was looking for him. At that time I tried to alert my drill sgt. But could not get a response from him. Later that night when the drill did his second round bed check he came downstairs and chewed me out saying “I thought I told you not to let Aponte in?” I told the drill I did not. I was later discovered that Aponte scaled the rain gutter downspout and climbed through an open window on the second floor of the barracks to let himself in. Although I was questioning by the detectives a day or days after, they never questioned me on what I saw the night when the murder took place. I remember the day that we all were being interviewed by detectives that Aponte’s pregnant wife (who had a defect/injury to her eye) and children showed up to visit him. I remember some scratches on Aponte’s face that he could not explain. I was shocked to hear later that he had committed the murder.
I had met Rosa at the PX a few weeks before that day, we really just said Hi i really thought to myself she is so pretty and very quite shy but i was also shy. I would see her from time to time and then that morning after everyone had to get up so early for a head count I found out what happen to her and i was so upset thinking why would anyone want to hurt her, it was a very sad day I still think about her 30 something years later may she RIP.
This was my oldest sister. I was only 15 when she was murdered. Our Justice system does not do us Justice. Forty years for him to serve was not enough for the life he took. Thank you to everyone that has commented on her.
I was there after she was found and discovered the spot where it happened in the daylight. The night before was tragic. There was an MP killed that night and that case put the report of a burning dumpster in the back of everyones mind until she was found the next day.
The case was as tragic in that certain circumstances lead to the 40 year sentence. I was also at the trial as an undercover officer for extra security because of threats and attempts toward the prosecutor.
Most don’t see all the happens but Ft. Dix, not unlike many other posts, had a lot of tragedies in the 1980’s.