Special to the Times-Free Press
A woman faced arraignment last week in the May hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of 58-year-old pedestrian Alan Martel, District Attorney Kevin Hayden said.
Gabriella Mendez, 32, of Chelsea appeared in the East Boston Division of Boston Municipal Court for a summons arraignment on charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, leaving the scene of a crash causing injury or death, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, a motor vehicle lights violation, using an electronic device (texting) while operating a motor vehicle and failure to stop/yield to a pedestrian. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Smith of the DA’s Major Felony Bureau, Judge Steven Key set $500 bail and ordered Mendez to abide by a curfew and not drive without a valid license while her criminal case is pending.
Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Boston EMS responded to the area of 35 Bennington Street in East Boston at approximately 11:50 p.m. on May 12, where Martel had been struck by a silver Hyundai Santa Fe while crossing the street. Martel suffered injuries that would claim his life at Massachusetts General Hospital two weeks later, on May 26.
The vehicle that struck Martel fled the scene. Another driver who witnessed the hit-and-run followed the vehicle and called 911, providing the vehicle’s description and path of flight.
Boston Police responded to the home of the vehicle’s registered owner and were notified that Mendez was the primary operator of the SUV. She did not return to her home as expected on the night of the crash, but detectives were able to speak to her at one of her workplaces the following morning. The SUV was located in the business’ parking lot with damage to the windshield, hood, grill and passenger side mirror.
Security video captured the Santa Fe traveling toward the scene of the crash with the headlights off, despite the fact that it was nearly midnight. The video shows Martel as he crossed the street and was struck by the SUV. The SUV’s brake lights came on briefly, but it did not stop. The operator continued to drive along Bennington Street and through a red light at the intersection of Bennington and London streets. Additional evidence indicates that Mendez had a cell phone in her hand and was using it at the time she allegedly struck the victim.
As a result of the investigation, charges were issued against Mendez following a clerk’s hearing held in July.
“No text message, phone call or app is worth the lives and safety of our neighbors. The harm that can be inflicted through the decision to prioritize a device over safety – even for only a moment – can never be undone. My office is available to Mr. Martel’s loved ones and to every survivor of motor vehicle homicide in Suffolk County to provide the support and resources they deserve,” Hayden said.
Jillian Rose of the DA’s Homicide Unit is the assigned victim witness advocate. Mendez is represented by attorney George Ohlson. She returns to court October 20.
All charged individuals are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office serves the communities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Mass. The office handles over 20,000 cases a year. More than 160 attorneys in the office practice in nine district and municipal courts, Suffolk Superior Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, and the Boston Juvenile Courts. The office employs some 300 people and offers a wide range of services and programs to serve anyone who comes in contact with the criminal legal system. This office is committed to educating the public about the services we provide, our commitment to crime prevention, and our dedication to keeping the residents of Suffolk County safe.