TAMPA — The desperation in their voices was haunting. "He's going to kill somebody," the driver said repeatedly during a 911 call on July 4, 2010.
The unidentified callers followed Albino Martinez, now 35, for seven heart-wrenching minutes as he drunkenly maneuvered his Nissan pickup north on Dale Mabry Highway, swerving in and out of lanes and over medians. And then, after turning west on Van Dyke Road, they watched helplessly as he smashed head on into a minivan and killed 42-year-old Gina Villegas.
Friday morning, Martinez apologized to Villegas' family for the pain and suffering he caused. Her husband and three children, ranging in age from 18 to 23, listened in silence as Martinez maintained his innocence, claiming someone slipped a drug into his drink. His family cried as the New Port Richey man pleaded with the court, telling the judge about his two young children.
"That day, everything finished for me," Martinez said through an interpreter. "I don't know if I deserve to be happy."
Judge William Fuente sentenced Martinez to 15 years in prison. Martinez, who is in the country illegally, will likely be deported after he serves his time.
The defense had asked for a lighter sentence, arguing Martinez was a victim of involuntary intoxication. But Fuente opted for the maximum sentence.
"DUI manslaughters are, without question, one of the most difficult types of cases," Fuente said. "We're dealing with really decent people, for the most part. . . . There is no evil intent or malice on anyone's part."
Still, Fuente said Martinez made the choice to drink and get behind the wheel, turning a car into a weapon. That choice cost the Villegas family a mother, wife and sister.
"The loss to the Villegas family is permanent," Fuente said. "The loss to Mr. Martinez is finite, and will be temporary."
The Villegas family did not speak, instead opting for Becky Gage, a victim's advocate, to read a previously written letter. Gina Villegas' widower, Joffre, stood beside Gage as she shared the family's words.
"Because of this horrible event, we no longer have our mother here on this earth, but we're sure she still watches over us," Gage read. "But Mr. Martinez must live with these actions for the rest of his life."