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District Attorney - Press Releases

Posted on: January 17, 2018

1/17/2018 - Defendant in “Hell’s Gate” Murder Sentenced to 99 Years

San Antonio, Texas, January 17, 2018: Today, a Bexar County jury in the 290th District Court sentenced Robert Martinez, age 21, to 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Last Friday, jurors found Martinez guilty of the 2015 Hell’s Gate murder of Steven Cerna.

On February 20, 2015, Robert Martinez lured Steven Cerna to a ditch on the West side of San Antonio, known as “Hell’s Gate.” As they walked through the ditch, Martinez executed Cerna by shooting him two times to the face and two times to the neck. Neighbors heard the gunshots and called police, identifying two Hispanic males between the ages of 19 and 20 running from the ditch into a maroon colored car with a broken windshield that was parked on the side of the street. After speaking to witnesses, Robert Martinez was identified as a person of interest in the murder but no arrest was made. Two years later, Martinez’ uncle, Larry Isaac, was charged with Aggravated Kidnapping. Isaac offered to provide information on the cold case murder in exchange for a reduced sentence on his case. It was this information that led to the arrest of Martinez.

 At trial, Isaac testified that shortly after the murder, Martinez told him that he killed Steven Cerna because Martinez had learned that Cerna’s cousin had killed his friend. Martinez wanted revenge for his friend’s death and formulated a plan to lure him to the ditch. Isaac testified that prior to the murder, Martinez had been known to carry a .38 caliber firearm and per the ballistics report, a .38 caliber bullet had been used to kill Cerna.

During closing arguments, prosecutors stated that Martinez possessed an “eye for an eye” mentality. “Where did that bullet come out, the victim’s face, eye for an eye,” said Assistant District Attorney Melissa Saenz during closing arguments. “You need to hold him accountable; we ask that you find him guilty.”

Assistant District Attorneys Melissa Saenz and Kristina Escalona from the District Attorney’s Criminal Trial Division prosecuted the case against Martinez in the 290th District Court.

Murder is a first degree felony, punishable by 5-99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000.00 fine. During punishment, jurors heard evidence of Martinez’s prior convictions, including a Robbery committed after the Murder, along with evidence of his association with the Lincoln Court Kings. The Defendant testified during the Punishment phase of trial and continued to deny his involvement in the Murder. After deliberating for 90 minutes, the jury sentenced Martinez to 99 years in prison.

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