WASHINGTON, D.C. - During Tuesday night’s speech to the nation, President Trump cited details of a recent Clayton County homicide – a gruesome killing involving dismemberment -- in making his case for constructing a wall along the southern U.S. border.
The man charged with murder in the November case, Christian Ponce-Martinez, had moved to Morrow three months before allegedly killing one of his neighbors, Robert Page.
According to the White House, Ponce-Martinez was in the U.S. illegally.
"Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders. In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history,” Trump said. "In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading and dismembering his neighbor."
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Page, a 76-year-old grandfather, was reported missing in early November by his wife of nearly 50 years. Officers searched the area and found Ponce-Martinez hiding behind his house and acting nervous and suspicious, police said. A trail of blood led investigators to Page’s remains. He had been dismembered, and part of his body was located in a cooler. Ponce-Martinez was arrested and charged with malice murder.
In December, two GBI employees – a graphic arts specialist and a homicide investigator – resigned after allegedly taking photos of each other posing with Page’s head.
Lula Page, who sat up reading Tuesday night and didn’t watch the address, told the AJC she was surprised to hear the president had brought up her husband’s case. She struggled for the words to express what it meant to her.
Her husband’s death changed the way she feels about immigration, making her think there should be better ways to protect U.S. citizens against immigrants who may be dangerous. But Page said she doesn’t know what can be done to stop the actions of one person.
“Everybody on the earth is not bad and everybody on the earth is not good, no matter what your culture,” Page said.
According to information released by the White House, U.S. Border Patrol encountered Ponce-Martinez in 2015 and ordered him to return to Mexico. He was being held without bond late Tuesday in the Clayton jail, records showed.
The speech was Trump's first prime-time national televised address and was intended to make the case for funding his long-promised wall on the U.S.'s southern border.
It came 18 days into a partial federal government shutdown, resulting from disagreement between lawmakers in Congress over whether or not to include funding for the wall in a bill to reopen the government.
- AJC staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.
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