Cold-blooded murder. International intrigue. Life-and-death consequences. Retired Texas Ranger Wade Justus faces them all. It’s his crime-fighting expertise and his enduring passion for putting things right that pulls him away from his quiet, ranch life — and it’s the imagination of Dr. Ron Martinelli. Who says retirement needs to be boring?
Ron may be many things: a proud husband to Linda, a father of four, a former San Jose police officer, and a nationally recognized forensic criminologist. But to many readers across the country, his stories that blend real-life cases with a fanciful imagination make him a national treasure living right here in the Hill Country of Boerne, Texas.
As I sat down with Ron, our conversation spanned a variety of topics — from his life as a child to his prolific career to what it’s like to inspire people. We chatted about many things, but I must say what stuck with me most about my time with Ron is that he’s one of the most fascinating, optimistic men I have ever met.
To understand his present, we dive back to his humble beginnings in San Francisco as a first-generation child of immigrant parents from Italy. Never imagining a career in law enforcement, Ron was busy getting an education in sports medicine, intending to pursue a career as a physical therapist. But in a twist worthy of Wade Justus, Ron became a High School Teacher. But when he was laid off from his teaching position, Ron went back to the San Francisco area. It was then Ron took the first step into his lifelong career: law enforcement. In an era where recruits only needed a high school education to become police officers, he knew he wanted to further his education. Ron was ecstatic to learn that his department would pay for his education.
Ron’s passion for learning was inspired by his mother who always challenged him to dream big. His father was a veterinarian who had an interest in medicine, so his passion for continuous education in the field of medicine and sciences seemed like a foregone conclusion. As a field training officer, he would inform his rookies saying, “If all your worldviews come from what you see from the patrol car, you will always be bitter and angry.” It is a wonderful example to look for the good in people and the world. Ron was a mentor to many of his department members giving healthy advice to young officers to surround themselves with successful dreamers.
It didn’t take long for Ron to rise in the ranks from field training officer to detective. There, he put in long hours, drawing on his background in investigations, medicine, and applied sciences. His fields of competency were wide: they included forensics, psychology & psychological profiling; physiology and human factors; violent crimes, and death scene investigations. Thanks to his expertise and dependability, Ron won the state law enforcement scholarship and earned his doctorate. After only three years in the department, he was the only police officer in classes filled with command staff. Naturally, Ron decided to juggle another title as well: teaching at the university level. Then in 1980 — after 25 years on the force and recognizing the need for more “reality-based” training in law enforcement — Ron retired to go into private practice with his company Martinelli & Associates.
However, Ron soon discovered that it was hard to leave the work behind. He had relied on healthy coping mechanisms to manage the years of seeing, smelling, and being in the presence of evil every day as a police officer and forensic investigator. But now that he was retired, the ever-growing caseload of investigations began to take a mental toll. He found himself trying to go to sleep but was only able to stare at his ceiling. His ceiling became a puzzle of the numerous cases he was currently working on. He knew this had to stop, but how to give his mind a rest?
That’s when a character named “Justus” was born. As soon as Ron started writing about this brilliant, no-nonsense, passionate investigator (sound familiar?), the visions on his ceiling went away. Coincidence? I think not. And so he discovered another passion: writing. “I decided to begin writing as a means of decompressing from death investigations,” he says. “It has proven to be wonderful psychotherapy.” This changed his life and accidentally turned him into an author.
It didn’t take long for his writings to turn into a series of books, beginning with Absolute Justus — a novel about a retired and revered Texas Ranger who finally moved on from a respected active law enforcement career. Ron undoubtedly weaves his own history into his stories. In the first book, Ron writes about how “Wade Justus” has re-engaged his civilian life by returning to ranching and working with his beloved bucking bulls in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. The parallels are hard to miss.
These days, Ron is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist who is the only police expert in the country who is also a Certified Medical Investigator at the physician’s level. He has been referred to in the forensics and legal community as the “expert’s expert.” He directs the nation’s only multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team and specializes in forensic investigations. He handles all 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendment litigation, as well as officer- and civilian-involved criminal self-defense cases, school and workplace violence, and premises liability and security cases.
Ron makes the rounds on TV too. He’s a highly sought-after crime analyst and technical advisor to national and international news and entertainment media where he provides forensic consultations in high-profile death cases. He has personally investigated and/or provided forensic analysis in national cases like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin v. George Zimmerman, Michael Brown v. Officer Darren Wilson, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Anton Castile, Jeffrey Epstein, Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher cases and many more. Ron has over 45 years of expertise and has contributed his insight to outlets like Fox News, CNN, Discovery, and the History Channel.
But with all the titles, degrees, and accolades Ron holds, it would be shortsighted to not include another — he and Linda are livestock contractors and compete with bucking bulls in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit and own the 2016 World Champion bucking bull “Ringo Kid.”
Ron is a prolific man, to say the least. He’s a renowned and respected criminologist. He’s a husband, father, and rancher. He’s an acclaimed author. So how does he keep himself going? Passion and the pursuit of justice. It almost sounds like something you would read in a novel.
To find out more about the Absolute Justus books and connect with Ron, visit wadejustus.com and drronmartinelli.com.
I decided to begin writing as a means of decompressing from death investigations. It has proven to be wonderful psychotherapy.
Article by Brian McVey
Photography by Jessi Edison
Originally published in Boerne Lifestyle