Leticia Martinez-Cosman, Sharon Maeda, and Melinda Bloom stand smiling at the KVRU station clean-up in 2017

OPINION | Leticia Martinez-Cosman: A True Innocent of the World

by Sharon Maeda

We hoped and prayed for the best but were braced for the worse. On April 14, the worst was confirmed: The body found in a wooded part of Renton was indeed that of Leticia Martinez-Cosman. She had been missing since attending a Mariners game on March 31. Two days later, her son with special needs, Patrick, was driven from their White Center home in the middle of the night by Brett Gitchel, under the ruse of taking him to the hospital to see his mother after an accident. According to news reports, Gitchel drove Patrick around, then stopped and tried to strangle him. Patrick escaped and was able to contact 911. SPD has charged Gitchel with attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree theft, and unlawful possession of a firearm, related to his alleged attack of Patrick. Now that Leticia has been found, the King County Prosecutor’s Office is charging him with second-degree murder of Leticia. They found her on April 11, but positive identification did not come until three days later. 

For two weeks while family and friends were reeling from the shock that Leticia was missing, the public only knew that she met the suspect at Costco. Only now is the real Leticia Martinez-Cosman emerging in the mainstream media. Those of us who lived or worked in White Center — or otherwise came to cross paths with Leticia — know what a generous, kind-hearted person she was. 

I used to see Letitica nearly every day at Cafe Rozella, her White Center art coffee shop. I had not seen her since before the COVID-19 shutdown, and like many of her friends and neighbors, I was in a state of shock when her selfie at the Mariners game was blasted across the media. That was OUR Leticia. That revelation was followed by a flurry of emails and text messages. Leticia had many, many friends and was a major force in the revitalization of White Center. 

In the early 2000s, the Annie E. Casey Foundation made a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in the White Center neighborhood. As an affordable community just south of West Seattle, White Center was known more for drugs, meth labs, and prostitution than as a thriving multiethnic, multicultural community. Immigrant and refugee children had to walk past syringes and condoms on their way to school. The Casey Foundation funded Making Connections projects that worked on education, jobs, economic development, housing, and youth, as well as public safety. It was a great time, when residents and small-business owners alike joined in to redevelop the community to meet their needs and diverse cultures. During that time, Leticia was one of the pioneers. She opened Cafe Rozella, the first White Center coffee shop to have Wi-Fi and live music. 

Cafe Rozella became a meeting place for community organizers, small-business people, retirees, and students alike. If a group was having a meeting near the end of the day, Leticia would come to the table with a plate of her famous chocolate cookies or marble pound cake, saying it was the end of the day so it would get stale if we didn’t eat them. She would often make excuses for why she needed to do the books or clean the espresso machine in order that we could stay past closing to finish our meetings. 

According to the Cafe Rozella website, then Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels declared April 20, 2007, Cafe Rozella Day. Years later, Mayor Mike McGinn recalls that he was taken to Cafe Rozella on a White Center walking tour.  

While working to improve public safety, community organizers suggested nighttime activities that would liven the neighborhood; Leticia was the first to volunteer to host live music for White Center Music Nights. Cafe Rozella became a place full of music, from Latin to the blues. In the morning, residents parked illegally next to Rozella’s door to get their lattes on their way to work. Sometimes the cars would be three to four deep. Leticia supported the community, and the community supported her. 

In recent days, personal stories were all about her kind heart and generosity. One White Center resident recalled that Leticia showed up at her door with homemade banana bread, just to say hi. Another mentioned her kind words at times when it mattered. 

There are so many stories about Leticia and her love for everyone. She especially gravitated to anyone in need of help. In 2008, my car was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Leticia and Patrick, then about 7 or 8 years old, were driving by. She stopped and ran across the street to offer help. I was dazed while talking with police, but mentioned I was on my way to Kent to coordinate a fundraising dinner. Without saying a word, she and Patrick sprang into action, moving all the event decorations, signage, and helium tank out of my trunk and backseat and into her van. By the time the tow truck hauled my car away and I had finished the police report, she put me — still a bit dazed — into her van and drove me all the way to Kent. While unloading everything, she told the event organizers that I had been in a bad accident. After being assured that someone would take me home, she and Patrick left before I could even say thanks.

Years later, Leticia was one of the first to volunteer to come help clean up the KVRU radio space before we went on the air. Rainier Valley, White Center. It didn’t matter … she was all about thriving communities.

Leticia believed in the goodness of everyone and was sometimes naive about people who took advantage of her generosity when a little skepticism was warranted. But borrowing her car or taking money out of Cafe Rozella’s till was one thing. Brutal murder is another. She had free tickets to the Mariners game, and it was typical that she shared her good fortune. Was her killer a smooth talker like Ted Bundy, who was convicted of murdering at least 30 women? Her brother, Ricardo Martinez, acknowledged that she was sometimes too kind. Fellow White Center resident and friend Melinda Bloom described her perfectly: “She was a true innocent of the world.”  

We need justice for Leticia for this horrendous murder and the attack on Patrick, but we also should remember the person that she was, the devoted single mother of a special needs son, and the artist and small-business owner who always supported building a diverse community of kindness and love. 

Her brother Ricardo has started a GoFundMe to pay for bringing her home and for the care of Patrick, who will need support the rest of his life. According to Ricardo, the family is waiting for Patrick’s father to arrive from Texas to tell him his mother is gone.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Sharon Maeda came out of retirement to support the Emerald as interim managing editor and planning director until 2022. As a public school teacher, she found media as a way to empower students and ended up with a long media career. She managed the Pacifica Radio network (Los Angeles) as well as Seattle community radio stations KRAB-FM and KVRU-FM.

📸 Featured Image: From left to right: Leticia Martinez-Cosman, Sharon Maeda, and Melinda Bloom at a KVRU station clean-up in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Maeda)

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