Racing Fatality Trial Begins - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/11/08 - Nacogdoches

Racing Fatality Trial Begins

by Donna McCollum

Antonio Martinez pleaded guilty to three counts of intoxicated manslaughter and three counts of felony car racing, an action that caused the deaths of three people, including his cousin in November of 2006. Martinez also pleaded guilty to escape when he chose to run from law enforcement rather than take responsibility. He first eluded officers for three months before turning himself in. Then in September he escaped. Federal Marshals, Texas rangers and local authorities caught up with him in San Antonio. Testimony concerning that portion of the trial will be heard this week too.

A Nacogdoches County jury will decide Martinez' punishment. The 21 year old could face twenty years in prison on each count. The sentences could run consecutively.  

The trial's first day was emotionally draining on victims' families, the defendant and his family. Tears of grief flow from a mother who lost her son in the senseless accident. Her 26 year old boy was studying to be a physical therapist. On a Saturday night Kenneth Riehl III was a passenger in a car pulling off wortham street onto north street. Out of the blue, the vehicle was slammed by a street racing vehicle driven by Antonio Martinez. Sachiko Riehl chose to leave the courtroom as details of the wreckage came up in testimony. After composing her emotions she said,  " I don't want it to happen again, so they have to go to prison. I don't really want any more victims. "

Witnesses were the first to testify. The Ray's bowling night turned into frightful efforts to help the accident victims. The unforgettable sounds of roaring engines followed by crashing metal remain in their minds. Michael Ray said,  " We heard them before we saw them. I like drag racing so I remember looking up to see the street race. They were traveling at a high rate of speed and one car pulled out and one crashed into them. "

Kenneth Thompson's dad was in the courtroom too. His son was the innocent driver that fateful night. The member of the Houston Police Department isn't ready to talk, but he too knows what it's like to lose a son. Mothers Against Drunk Driving senior victim advocate, Kathy Bell-Schexnaider said,  " Most people during this time of the trial are truly wanting answers more than anything. Their biggest question is ' Why ?'."

The third fatality was Martinez' 18 year old cousin, Jose Tamez. Melissa Ray was the last to hold his hand before he died. Ray recalled,  " I said, ' There's help coming.' I said, ' If you can hear me please squeeze my hand,' and he squeezed it and then let go."

Martinez' sister, Juanita Martinez,  was thrown through her brother's windshield. She's lucky to be alive today. Michael Ray said,  " I don't know how to describe it. It was like Jesus Christ had his hands holding her up when that car came under her. It was like he laid her right under. She's got a little angel guarding her, I promise you. "

The other car was driven by Shaun Gilmore.  The friend of Martinez is facing similar charges. The two buddies raced frequently on the track and in the streets. Witnesses had varying guesses as to how fast the vehicles were going. An accident reconstruction team is expected to provide the jury more scientific estimates.  

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