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BE man killed while on work release

By Staff | Jun 8, 2009

Things were starting to look up for 48-year-old Jose Ignacio Martinez of Blue Earth.

In February, Martinez pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor assault charges and one count of obstructing the legal process, also a misdemeanor.

Despite being held in Faribault County Jail since November 2008, he had a job at Albert Lea Seed House.

Martinez needed just 30 days to complete two-thirds of a 360-day sentence — scheduled to be released on June 29.

More importantly, he would be reunited with his family without fear of being deported.

“His family was very important to him. He was looking forward to getting back home and being under the same roof with his wife and kids,” says defense attorney Troy Timmerman.

While on work release and returning home on May 29, Martinez was killed when his 1981 Honda motorcycle crashed into a car that ran a stop sign.

Jail administrator Geary Wells says Martinez would leave for work every day at 5:30 a.m. and return by 8:30 p.m.

County authorities were notified around 8 p.m. that Martinez was killed in an accident.

“Everybody here liked him. He was a happy-go-lucky guy,” says Wells. “He used to call me Mr. Geary.”

Assistant jail administrator Joe Anderson also had nothing but good things to say about Martinez.

“It’s a sad thing. He was a model inmate and a hard worker. He was the most pleasant guy to be around,” he says.

Jail records show that Martinez began working at the seed company on March 3. However, it wasn’t the first job he had while being behind bars.

When he became eligible for Huber work release, Martinez helped a relative at the El Tio Restaurant in Blue Earth.

“He wanted to provide for his family. He didn’t want to be just sitting around,” says Wells.

Martinez was originally charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of making terroristic threats.

Because he was being held for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, Timmerman says he and an immigration attorney worked to ensure Martinez was not charged with a crime that would get him deported.

“He was always upbeat. He was a very positive person and never complained about his circumstances,” Timmerman says.

Pastor Dave Drescher of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church still remembers the first time he met Martinez, five years ago.

It was a hot, sunny day — Martinez, his wife and a friend were working in a field for a seed grower.

So, Drescher offered the trio some water to quench their thirst.

“He had a big smile on his face and he looked up to the sky and said, ‘God created all of this.’ Then he asked me if I knew Jesus,” Drescher says.

Martinez and Drescher became friends and the pastor attended initial court hearings to lend his support.

“He was a happy and pleasant man,” Drescher says.

According to Freeborn County authorities, Martinez reportedly crashed his motorcycle around 6:20 p.m. into a car that failed to stop for a stop sign on County Road 46 near the intersection of 700th Avenue, four miles west of Albert Lea.

Martinez sustained severe injuries in the crash and was transported by ambulance to Albert Lea Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the car, Marvin William Steinhauer, 86, of Albert Lea, was taken into custody pending charges related to the crash. He was not injured.

Memorial services for Martinez were held Thursday at Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Fairmont.