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Updated: Friday, 02 Nov 2012, 8:32 AM CDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 9:12 AM CDT
STURGEON BAY - A Door County mother will spend the next three years in prison for the death of her infant daughter.
In June, Melissa Martinez, 34, pleaded no contest to a charge of neglecting a child with the consequence of death. As a part of the deal, prosecutors dropped the charge of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.
Eight-month-old Elena Martinez died last October after investigators say she had been left in a running, heated SUV in the driveway, for several hours.
"I don't have much left,” said Melissa Martinez in Door County Court Thursday.
Willing to accept the harshest punishment, an emotional Melissa Martinez pleaded with Judge Todd Ehlers to take into consideration her progress in alcohol rehab, her employment and continued sobriety since her daughter's death.
"But what I do have is my daughter and my mother. They are the driving force that keeps me going forward,” said Martinez. “By sharing my pain, hopefully someone else will hear it."
But Door County District Attorney Ray Pelrine says Martinez's progress does not change the fact that her daughter is dead.
"What we had here, with Ms. Martinez, was essentially an alcohol bomb waiting to go off,” said Pelrine referring to her long-time struggle with alcohol. “She failed at her most basic responsibility and duty to her daughter Elena."
When Elena died, prosecutors say Martinez was inside her home. Court documents say the infant's internal body temperature was nearly 108 degrees Fahrenheit after a 40-minute transport to Door County Memorial Hospital. Later that same evening, officials say Martinez's blood alcohol level was still nearly three times the legal limit to drive.
“The decision in this case is very simple,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Jazgar.
Jazgar expressed concerns about a prison sentence.
“If she does go to prison today, it seems like everything that was provided to her just kind of gets thrown away,” he said.
Speaking through the aid of interpreter, Martinez's emotional husband also addressed the court.
"My daughter is never going to come back," said Jose Martinez. "I did everything possible to save her...and now my other daughter is going to be without a mother.”
“I am struck today, just by the profound sadness,” said Ehlers.
Before handing down his sentence, Ehlers did not doubt Martinez's remorse, but also did not deny her role in the death.
"Elena Martinez is no longer with us on this earth today, not because of some tragic or unavoidable accident. Elena is dead, Ms. Martinez, because of your decision to drink,” said Ehlers.
After the hearing, neither the family nor the attorneys wished to comment.
Terms of the sentencing will allow Martinez to be eligible for treatment programs while in prison.
After serving her three years, she will be under extended supervision for four more years. She must also have an ignition interlock device in any vehicle she might drive; she cannot drink or even go to a bar. Jazgar says it's too early to say if he will file an appeal.