Eighteen-year-old Cameron Martinez was shot dead in front of his friends in 2018 with his class schedule in his pocket.
A lawyer for the main defendant in his death, Mark Hice, 25, from Ojo Caliente, argued that the murder was neither planned nor organized – it was a tragic case of error of identity.
A Rio Arriba County jury disagreed, convicting Hice of first degree murder and a dozen other counts Wednesday night in a courtroom in the remote village of Tierra Amarilla.
Authorities said Martinez, a popular EspaÃ±ola Valley High School graduate who lived in Alcalde, was traveling with friends in a Subaru on NM 68 north of Spain, near the Ohkay Hotel Casino, on the night of October 4, 2018. , when Hice and his friends shot at them because they thought the car was carrying a man Hice feared he wanted to kill him.
Three of Martinez’s friends were injured in the shooting.
Martinez’s family members and other shooting victims cried in the courtroom, hallway and an overflowing observation room on Wednesday as a judge read the verdict, finding Hice guilty of all 13 counts charges against him, some of which relate to a shooting earlier in the day where he shot a car carrying a family.
The charges included shooting at or from a motor vehicle, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault and negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The verdict came two weeks after the death of Martinez’s father.
âWe celebrate, but we celebrate for strange reasons,â said Loren Martinez, 26-year-old brother of Cameron Martinez. âHe left a lot of things behind, a lot of things he wanted to do and accomplish. He left a huge impact.
Loren Martinez and other family members said they were grateful to see justice served in the tragedy.
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies delivered a similar message after the verdict.
“While nothing will bring Cameron back from this senseless murder, we hope this verdict will help put some degree of closure on his family and loved ones and the victims … who were injured in the same shooting,” he said. -she declared in a press release. “We sincerely thank the lawyers, law enforcement and officers who work tirelessly to secure this verdict as well as the jury for their services.”
Prosecutor Blake Nichols told the jury in argument earlier Wednesday: âIt is clear that Cameron Martinez, Angelyssa Montoya, Monica Cordova and Rudy Trujillo had nothing to do with the accused. These four children almost made it home that evening.
Nichols said the teens were hanging out in a park together and driving to retrieve Martinez’s car when Hice mistook them for an enemy named Louie Martinez, who was unrelated to the slain teenager.
According to court records, Hice told police he fired three “warning” shots earlier in the day at a vehicle carrying Louie Martinez and his friends, who were following him. A report of gunfire in the area at the time – from a vehicle confirmed to be Hice’s – came from a man and woman and their two grandchildren.
Still fearing Louie Martinez, Hice armed himself and his friends that night and ordered everyone to shoot the man he believed was going to kill him, Nichols said, adding that Hice is became paranoid while driving a car on the NM 68, and the Subaru came up behind him and started to pass.
âHe pulled out his gun, loaded an extended magazine, rolled down his window, ignoring warnings from others in the carâ¦ pointed the gun at the Subaru’s rear window and pulled the trigger,â said Nichols.
Police said he fired nine bullets into the car, as did co-accused Axel Zamarron, who pleaded guilty to first degree murder in the death of Cameron Martinez in March 2020. They were two of the seven youths indicted in the shooting.
Hice’s mother also told investigators her son became paranoid that afternoon and “felt every car was there to look for him,” according to police reports.
Hice’s mistake left a teenager dead and three others injured, scarred and emotionally traumatized, Nichols said. âThese kids didn’t deserve this.
He noted that Trujillo had been hit by a bullet that passed through Martinez.
The prosecutor offered three theories: Hice knew Cameron Martinez was in the car; he thought Louie Martinez was in the car; or he recklessly pulled at the vehicle, demonstrating a depraved spirit. Each case would constitute a charge of first degree murder, Nichols said.
Defense lawyer Sheri Raphaelson argued in her closing statement that the state had failed to prove the murder was premeditated.
âIt’s not about whether he’s guilty,â Raphaelson told jurors. “It’s about what he’s guilty of, and it’s a legal matter.”
She urged jurors to remove emotion from their deliberations.
Hice’s actions were aligned with second degree murder – an unforeseen murder, Raphaelson argued.
She said he was afraid for his life and that of his girlfriend and thought he heard a gunshot before he started shooting.
While he was afraid of Louie Martinez, she added, there was no “master plan” to kill him.
After a week-long trial, the jury spent about four hours deliberating on Wednesday before finding Hice guilty on all counts. The murder conviction means he faces a life sentence of 30 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. The other charges combined could add more than 45 years to his time behind bars.
Cameron Martinez was a new student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and had studied information technology before his death.
Loren Martinez and her sister, Rebecca Martinez, said the family set up a scholarship fund in honor of their brother called SpaceJam Cam Scholarship, named after a clothing line that Cameron Martinez started with a friend.