Defendant Takes Stand In Racing Fatality Trial - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/12/08 - Nacogdoches

Defendant Takes Stand In Racing Fatality Trial

by Donna McCollum

For two days Tony Martinez has listened to tearful testimony. He's heard descriptive consequences that he caused for families, including his own. It occasionally brought him to tears. The 21 year old's attorney, Nicole LoStracco gently questioned her client about his actions. He answered, " I'm sorry, I feel real bad about taking the lives of their sons and my cousin. They were good guys who had a lot going for them." Words that are intended to provide comfort to mourning parents and show remorse to a jury.

Carolyn Thompson's son, Kenneth died in the accident as the car he was in pulled in front of the speeding vehicle. Thompson said,    " An accident is something done out of your control. This was not an accident. He chose to drink. He chose to drive. He chose to race." Father of another victim,  Kenneth Riehl II, Mike Riehl said,  " Without any of those factors this would have never happened. So it all falls into his hands."

District Attorney Stephanie Stephens' cross examinations centered on Martinez' irresponsibility. She questioned him about his drinking, his lengthy and unnecessary stay in Mexico and a jail escape.   Stephens' questioning led Martinez to admit to previous street racing. He admitted to having about 6 beers and 2 shots of whiskey. His testimony fell in line with what his mother and ex-girlfriend who spoke of his disappearance after the accident. They said they were in Mexico for the burial of his grandmother's ashes, a trip previously planned. The family stayed there for almost 2 1/2 months. Under Stephen's questioning, Martinez said while in Mexico he suspected that charges would be filed. "Are there no phones in Mexico? Are you telling me you could never call anyone to see if you were needed back in the U.S." Martinez had no explanation.

Martinez eventually turned himself in on two separate occasions following his return to the U.S., but later escaped.   Martinez called it, "Another bad decision," adding, "I wanted to be free. I was tired of being locked up."   Parents want their son's killer locked up to stay. Riehl said,  " I'm just hopeful a jury will understand that three people lost their lives and he does need to have a sufficient punishment. I can't say what that is though."  

Punishment ranges from two to 10 years in prison for racing and escape charges and two to 20 years in prison for each intoxicated manslaughter charge. The sentences can be stacked.

When court recessed, Carolyn Thompson chose to visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving crosses on North Street where her son, Kenneth Thompson and his friend Kenneth Riehl II died. It's also where Martinez' cousin, Jose Tamez died. No cross has been placed for him.

An unidentified cousin said, " Our family feels bad. We lost someone too. The entire event is tragic."  

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