Mark Hice, convicted in the shooting death of 18-year-old Cameron Martinez, took the final moments before his sentencing Wednesday afternoon to apologize to the teen’s family and friends and even attorney Blake Nichols, who prosecuted him.
“I want to say that I’m really sorry for the pain and the grief that I’ve caused you and for the loss of Cameron’s life,” Hice said, facing the family. “I hope that you believe me when I say even though my life can’t match his, if I had the chance I would give my life for his so you could be happy again.”
Hice, 25, added that he accepted any penalty that was imposed. Minutes after his apology, District Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne sentenced him to life in prison plus 43½ years.
The judge’s decision came hours after she sentenced Axel Zamarron to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed per his agreement with state prosecutors to plead guilty to first-degree murder for his role in the Alcalde teen’s death.
Zamarron, now 20, was 17 at the time of the murder and is considered a serious youthful offender.
Hice was accused of organizing and arming a group of youths whom police say opened fire on a moving vehicle driven by Martinez on N.M. 68 north of Española in October 2018.
He was convicted by a jury in August on 13 felony counts, including first-degree murder, aggravated assault and negligent use of a deadly weapon. The trial came three years after the teen’s slaying due to delays in court proceedings resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
As more than a dozen people from Martinez’s circle of grieving friends and family testified to the impact the teen’s death has had on their lives, Hice wept next to his attorney, Sheri Raphaelson.
Martinez was one of three people hit by gunfire as he sat in the back seat. The others suffered gunshot wounds and were treated at a hospital, but Martinez died en route.
Rudy Trujillo, one of the three who were shot, recounted how his friend had made plans with him to have barbecues when they were older and had helped him grow in his faith. He then recounted how that friend bled out in his arms.
“The person I was had been ripped to shreds and tortured beyond comparison,” Trujillo said. “The motivated person that I was had been cut and bled out because of the loss of my best friend.”
Many blamed Hice in their statements for the death of Martinez’s father, Urban Martinez, who died in July from health complications — including anxiety, depression and insomnia — that were exacerbated by the death of his son and stressful legal proceedings, family members said.
Testimony came from Martinez’s aunts, uncles, basketball coach, girlfriend and older brother and sister. Tears flowed in the courtroom as stories were told one after another of the teen’s charisma, maturity, kindness and drive.
“To lose a child to a senseless murder is an agony so consuming, so dark, it’s something no one can comprehend,” said mother Valerie Martinez to the court. “It haunts your sleep; it haunts your will to live.
“Mark Hice has brought so much damage upon so many living and those who will never be,” she added. “He not only murdered my son … in essence, he murdered generations of our family.”
The tears in court were among many shed Wednesday, as Zamarron’s biological mother, Fabiola Zamarron, abruptly left the courtroom frantic and distraught after his sentence was announced. Earlier she pleaded for the judge to sentence her son to the minimum of 13 years.
“It hurts my soul what happened to your family,” she said in Spanish, translated by the court’s interpreter. “I know my son made an awful mistake, but I ask you to please have mercy.”
Others, including Zamarron’s sister, brother and father, argued Zamarron was a good kid who made a serious mistake but deserved a second chance.
Fabiola Zamarron noted Zamarron has a 4-year-old son whom she does not want to grow up without a father. She added Zamarron had a tough childhood, which included losing his biological father and later a close friend to gun violence.
Nichols closed his final argument against Zamarron using these points against him.
“If you have gone through this yourself, and your family has gone through this, then why on God’s green earth would you do that to other people?” he said.
The sentences mark the end of a three-year legal journey for the family and friends of Martinez, who had showed up at every court proceeding.
Martinez’s girlfriend at the time of his death, Kayla Martinez, said Hice’s apology to the family surprised her.
“I think it took a lot to do that; it was a bold move,” she said.
“We’re just glad this is all finally over,” said Cameron Martinez’s 26-year-old brother, Loren Martinez, after the hearings. “It’s been a long three years, and we just hope we can move forward from here.”