On February 6, 2007, a red Jeep Cherokee, going an estimated 75 – 100 mph in a 35 mph zone, was attempting to turn when it crossed the center line, careened of another vehicle and hit Leanna Newman's Saturn head-on in Landis, North Carolina. Newman, 20, of Salisbury, NC was eight months pregnant. Both she and her unborn child died the following day. Her one year old daughter, in a car-seat, survived the crash.
Police identified the driver that casued the crash as Rigo Verto Guillen Martinez. However federal authorities soon confirmed that his real name is Carlos Alfonso Guillen Martinez, and he is an illegal alien from
Martinez had a Mexican driver’s license, no state license, and a blood alcohol level of 0.27, which was more that three times the legal .08 limit. A paramedic said Tuesday that Martinez admitted after the crash that he'd had 20 beers.
Martinez was convicted of 2nd degree murder, drunk driving, and hit and run and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Members of Newman’s family and even one juror broke down in tears as the verdicts were read.
"When they came back with what they did, I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, thank you,’" Newman’s grandmother, Rena Fox, told Eyewitness News.
Some gasps and sighs of relief were also heard in the courtroom. The young woman’s family said they finally have the justice they’ve been waiting for. "We were nervous. We weren't sure it was going to come back our way, but when we heard, we all just hollered; we knew he was going to get justice,” said Newman’s mother, Bobbie Easley.
Martinez has been convicted twice previously of driving while impaired, three times of driving with a revoked license and assault charges. He's used at least half a dozen aliases and has already been deported from the U.S. twice.
Richard Rocha, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said that Martinez is from El Salvador and was deported in 1997 and 1998.
Carlyle Sherrill, Martinez's attorney, told the court his client came from El Salvador and had lived in the United States since he was 18. Martinez is a painter by trade and has been in the Carolinas for eight years, Sherrill said.
Leaana Newman is survived by her husband Brad and daughter.
Documentation:6FEB07, WSOC TV9
Community Remembers Pregnant Mother And Unborn Child Killed In Landis Crash (site contains numerous video reports)
15FEB07, The Charlotte Observer
Officials: Driver involved in fatal wreck also in U.S. illegally
Archived at: http://www.alipac.us/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=54391
14FEB07, WCNC North Carolina
Driver in fatal crash has been deported twice
10JUL07, WSOC TV
Family Of Pregnant Woman Killed In Landis Crash Asks Lawmakers For Change
19SEP07, WSOC TV9
Illegal Immigrant Found Guilty Of Murder In Landis Crash
21SEP07, Salisbury Post
Martinez gets maximum sentence, by Shavonne Potts