Man charged in kidnapping and torture case now faces witness intimidation charge
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IDAHO FALLS — Investigators say a man accused of kidnapping and torture allegedly intimidated a co-conspirator who placed him at the crime.
The Idaho Falls Police Department investigated a kidnapping that resulted in a woman’s torture in 2020. Jorge Luis Balderas, 26, is awaiting trial in the case alongside his girlfriend, Sasha Dee Martinez, 33, ex-girlfriend Laura Zamudio, 28, and Zamuido’s boyfriend at the time, Austin Alverado, 23.
Balderas allegedly had a video call on March 13 with Martinez, who sat behind bars at the Bonneville County Jail. Balderas had previously bailed out. In the call, Balderas is alleged to have directed Martinez to have attacks put out on other inmates but also threatened her so she would retract the statements she gave to authorities.
In the video call, Balderas is reported to have said something to Martinez along the lines of “for your sake,” she should retract the statement. During the entire conversation, Baldaras held a small torch that he would turn on and off. Police said implied the threat of torture against Balderas.
Charges against Baldares and his co-defendants stem from when in June, a woman asked a stranger to call 911 for her. The woman said she had just escaped from a home on the 1000 block of Canal Street. She said she had experienced horrific abuse and torture inside the home.
During the week of June 8, she was hit in the head with propane torches, tire irons and pots, according to court documents. In another incident, she was tied to a chair with a rope and ratchet straps while her hair was cut off. One of the alleged captors then carved a letter into the woman’s cheek with a knife.
Before the victim escaped, Balderas allegedly left her with severe burns to her leg. He reportedly poured lighter fluid on the floor below her chair and lit it on fire. He would also allegedly use the blowtorch on the victim’s arm.
An Idaho Falls Police Department officer wrote in a charging document that during the investigation, Martinez gave a statement that could implicate Balderas in the crime. With the alleged threats to recall the statement, prosecutors have charged Balderas with intimidating a witness.
If convicted of this new charge, Balderas could be ordered to spend up to five years in prison. Felony first-degree kidnapping, a charge Balderas already faces, holds up to life in prison.
Although Balderas is accused of crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Balderas posted the $20,000 bail on intimidation charge and was released from the Bonneville County Jail. However, prosecutors are asking a judge his bail be revoked in the kidnapping case. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 5.