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Encinitas family trying to come to grips with tragic murder of loved one

Posted at 7:47 PM, May 16, 2023

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) — A North County family is mourning the tragic murder of their loved one, a single mom of an adult with special needs.

Leticia Martinez grew up in Encinitas but spent most of her adult life in Seattle. The fifty-eight-year-old single mom owned a popular cafe and was known for holding multicultural events. She was honored by the city for trying to revitalize the area.

"She wanted to show, help grow the community there and she was into diversity and she would do good things for the community there," said sister Laura Dicus of Encinitas.

Dicus says Letty, as the family called her, was known for her generosity.

"She was always friendly with people and wanted to share anything she would have," said Dicus.

It wasn't a surprise that she'd share Mariners tickets with a man she met at a Seattle area Costco back in March. She often had free tickets through her job.

"She was a big Mariners fan. She'd take my brother or sister-in-law, or whoever wanted to go," said Dicus.

Letty and a man named Brett Gitchel met at the game on March 31st. Letty snapped a selfie of the two and sent it to a friend.

"She did everything right. She was in a public place, thought she was safe," said Dicus.

Ultimately, police would use the photo to help catch her suspected killer.

Nearly two weeks later, police found Letty's body in a ditch.

Letty had been strangled. Her car was found burned.

"My brother says there's people out there, that are just parasites and she just happened to run into one," said Dicus tearfully.

Gitchel pleaded not guilty to murdering Letty. He's also charged with kidnapping and trying to kill her 24-year-old son Patrick two days after Letty disappeared. The young man was able to fight off Gitchel and get away.

Gitchel has a lengthy criminal record. He's in jail on a five-million-dollar bond.

The family says Patrick requires lifelong care.

"She was the sole caregiver to my nephew. She would say it's him and I forever," said Dicus fighting back tears.

The family started this Gofundme to help raise money for her son.

"It was always about Patrick and how she loved Patrick. All the calls, she'd talk to her mother daily," said Dicus.

Letty's parents and siblings all live in the Encinitas area. They'll hold a memorial service for her at St John's Catholic Church on June 17th in Encinitas.