‘Dogged justice’: Relentless detective cracks nearly 20-year cold case murder of store owner through DNA

Martin Isaac Tellez, 45, was sentenced to 60 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – After nearly 20 years on the run, a man who robbed, shot and killed a convenience store owner is being punished for the crime, thanks to the dedication of a detective who just would not give up.

On Tuesday, Martin Isaac Tellez, 45, was sentenced to 60 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division. He will be required to serve one-half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

On February 15, 2002 around 12:50 p.m., officers with the Oak Ridge North Police Department were dispatched to the Coastal Gas Station convenience store and cash checking business located at 26914 Interstate 45 North regarding an apparent homicide.

Detective Kent Hubbard responded to the scene. Upon arrival, he found Subir Chatterjee dead in the secured clerk’s booth/office area of the gas station.

Chatterjee, who owned and operated the business, had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. It was also discovered that someone had taken $160,000 in cash from the store.

At that time, law enforcement had few leads, vague witness descriptions, no surveillance video, and no suspects. The case went cold for almost 20 years.

Detective Hubbard, however, persisted in investigating the case.

He worked various leads for more than 15 years before coming across an article outlining how law enforcement in California used genealogy and DNA to solve homicide cases.

Hubbard then reached out to Parabon Nanolabs, an organization that uses genetic genealogy, phenotyping, ancestry, and kinship analysis to assist law enforcement in developing potential suspects for cases where DNA evidence is present. With the agreement of the Oakridge Police Department and the assistance of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, Hubbard requested and received asset forfeiture funds to pay for the testing.

In 2018, Parabon reported to Hubbard that three members of the Tellez family were potential sources of the evidence collected from the crime scene. On December 4, 2019, Hubbard learned that the DNA extracted from a fork, coffee cup, and piece of toast collected from a table where Martin Isaac Tellez had eaten was an exact match to the DNA from the scene.

Due to advances in DNA technology since the initial testing in this case, a DPS analyst was able to re-examine the fingernail scrapings from Chatterjee’s autopsy, and discovered Tellez’s DNA underneath the victim’s fingernails.

On December 10, 2019, Hubbard arrested Tellez for capital murder; 17 years, nine months, and 25 days after committing the crime. Following his arrest, Tellez confessed to murdering Chatterjee while robbing him. He explained that his blood was present at the scene because Chatterjee struck him in the head with a telephone to defend himself, and the blow caused Tellez’s scalp to bleed.

In 2005, the Texas Legislature made life without parole a punishment option for capital felonies. Because Tellez committed this offense before the enactment of that law, a sentence of life without parole was not included in his punishment range.

During the pendency of his case, Tellez, who was out on a $500,000 bond, cut off his GPS monitoring device and fled to Mexico. Texas Ranger Derek Leitner, with the assistance of agents from Homeland Security and the US Marshals, successfully tracked and convinced Tellez to return to the United States to await trial.

On June 28, Tellez pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a sentence of 60 years.

“Martin Tellez lived more than 20 years of his life with his family and his loved ones around him. Meanwhile, members of the Chatterjee family were left with an empty chair and aching hearts, believing they might never know who was responsible,” Assistant District Attorney Donna Hansen said. “Detective Kent Hubbard never gave up on this case, and it was my privilege to be able to assist him in bringing justice and closure to Subir’s family.”

“Every murder creates a wound in our community and in the lives of the victim’s family. Some of those wounds—like the murder of this beloved father and husband—are very deep; in this case, those wounds were laid bare for decades,” District Attorney Brett Ligon said. “Fortunately, a relentless instrument of dogged justice in the form of Detective Hubbard made what was wrong, right, and we hope that this measure of accountability will bring some relief to this grieving family,”