NEW PORT RICHEY — Joe Martell followed the fleeing pickup as it cut through yards and behind buildings, running farther from a man left dying in the street.
That night in 1994, Martell was out with friends when one of them saw a truck smash into an elderly man on a bicycle and take off. Using cell phones and radios, Martell relayed the driver's location to his friend, who passed it on to police, who caught up and arrested the driver.
On Saturday night in New Port Richey, some of the people who saw Martell die in a hail of gunfire did the same for him.
Outside a downtown bar on Grand Boulevard, near where hundreds of people were gathered for the first big weekend of the Chasco Fiesta, Martell, 34, got into an argument with another man. Police say Max Wesley Horn Jr. pulled a gun from beneath his shirt.
He fired several shots into Martell's chest at close range, authorities said, and then tried to run.
Witnesses jumped him and held him for police.
Horn, 46, faces a first-degree murder charge and is being held without bail. Records show he was first arrested in Florida in 1986. He was accused of aggravated battery, but the charge was dropped. He later picked up charges including grand larceny and DUI but had not been arrested since 1991.
As he was handcuffed Saturday night, Horn told police that Martell "has been asking for it for a long time. He's been stalking my sister," according to a report.
Mary Martell said she didn't know what Horn was talking about. Several of her son's friends who were with him Saturday night said they had never seen Horn before.
"As far as stalking his sister, I don't believe that," Mary Martell said.
She struggled to keep from breaking down as she described her son, who worked with his father as an asphalt plant operator and loved to hunt and fish.
The centerpiece of his life was his 7-year-old son, Travis, who learned Sunday of his father's sudden death.
"He's going to be very much missed, especially by his son. I think his son is the second victim in all this," Mary Martell said.
She said her son was the kind of guy who looked for the right thing to do — even if it meant chasing a drunken driver.
Back in 1994, Martell's friend Scott Perry was behind a pickup when it hit 79-year-old Ernest Moehring, who was pedaling along Seven Springs Boulevard. The truck stopped, but only briefly, then drove off.
Less than a mile away, Martell was parked at a convenience store. Perry radioed to him as the pickup drove by.
In a Times story recounting the incident, Martell remembered Perry telling him: "This guy just killed this guy. Don't let him get away, whatever you do."
For half an hour, Martell chased the driver, Doyle Payne, who was drunk and had a 10-month-old child with him. The pursuit ended at a restaurant where Payne's engine died.
Payne was later convicted of multiple charges, including DUI manslaughter, and sent to prison.
When reminded of her son's good Samaritan act of so long ago, Mary Martell said the incident summed him up.
"That was him," she said. "Everybody is saying that: He'd be the first one there to help you."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.