Although officials have said Jose Manuel Martinez claimed to have killed dozens of people on behalf of an unnamed Mexican drug cartel -- including nine in California -- an Alabama official said Wednesday that the slaying that led to his arrest last year was personal.

In March 2013, Martinez was in Lawrence County, Ala., visiting his daughter. Lawrence County Dist. Atty. Errek Jett said Martinez killed Jose Ruiz, an associate of a friend, because Ruiz had previously said something about Martinez's daughter.

“He put it in the context of family honor,” Jett said.

Martinez returned to California, where he lived, and then took a trip to Mexico. But when he tried to cross back into the United States on June 3, 2013, border officials in Yuma, Ariz., stopped him. Jett said the warrant for his arrest in the Alabama case had been entered into a federal database minutes earlier.

Alabama officials flew to Arizona to pick him up, Jett said, and once they began questioning him about Ruiz’s slaying, Martinez opened up about past crimes.

“He was pretty forthright,” Jett said. “In essence, he told them he had had a long life of it and now he was ready to fess up.”

As Martinez divulged details of past, unsolved cases, Alabama officials contacted agencies in at least a dozen other states, including California.

“They were able to match up times and dates and places with his stories,” Jett said.

Authorities in Marion County, Fla., said they found Martinez’s DNA on a cigarette butt stuffed in a Mountain Dew can in a truck with two dead bodies in 2006, according to a probable cause affidavit filed a few days after he was detained in Yuma.

A sheriff’s detective from Marion County, who interviewed him once he was back in Alabama, said Martinez admitted to the double homicide, according to the document.

Martinez is said to have told the Florida investigator that after collecting $210,000 from the two men -- he didn’t know their names, but recognized pictures -- he forced them into a black truck belonging to one of the victims. Martinez said he then drove for a while, pulled over to the side of a road and shot both of them, according to the affidavit.

Martinez said he had been contracted to kill the men, but he wouldn’t reveal by whom, according to the document.

“If I didn’t do the job,” he told the investigator, according to the document, “someone would have.”

In addition to facing a murder charge in the Ruiz case, Martinez is charged with double murder in Florida and nine counts of murder in California, spanning three decades. He is being held without bail in the Lawrence County, Ala., jail.

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com
Twitter: @marisagerber