Parents of murder victim can’t lock away their grief
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org June 18, 2013 10:24PM
Laura Martinez holds a picture of her son Adam Wednesday at Rich East High School. Adam was shot to death and his killer was sentenced to 40 years in prison Tuesday. | Casy Toner~Southtown Star
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:09AM
When they hear dogs barking at night, Laura and Jesse Martinez, of Park Forest, catch themselves thinking that maybe their son has come home.
But Adam Martinez is never coming back. That’s why a 40-year prison sentence given last week to the man who murdered Adam will never bring complete solace to the couple.
Jason Burns, 21, of Richton Park, shot and killed the Martinezes’ oldest son, 20-year-old Adam, in a tragic case of mistaken identity in May 2010.
Burns saw Martinez in his car in the 100 block of Hemlock Street and mistakenly believed Martinez was a man who had fought Burns’ friend earlier in the day. But Martinez did not know Burns or his friend, and had just picked up his own friends in his 2004 Monte Carlo when Burns shot and killed him.
Burns’ friend had said Martinez, who was driving, looked like the man he fought. The others in Martinez’s car were not hurt.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Rhodes last week sentenced Burns to 40 years in prison, nearly a year after he was found guilty of first-degree murder.
The three years that have passed since the shooting have not lessened the Martinezes’ pain.
“Every minute, every second, every hour of every day, we’re going to live our life without our son,” Laura Martinez said. “We will live longer without him than we had him.”
Jabriel Anderson, of Park Forest, and Corey Anderson, of Richton Park, are also facing first-degree murder charges in Martinez’s death. They are next due in court July 25 at the Markham courthouse.
Jesse Martinez, who attended every hearing in his son’s murder case, hoped that Rhodes would sentence Burns to 60 years but said the 40-year sentence was better than a potential scenario that concerned him.
“We were worried it was going to be 20 years, and we were happy (to find out) it was going to be more than that,” he said.
But they don’t expect the sentence to end their grief, as they testified in a victim impact statement that Laura read during the sentencing hearing.
“We still run to the window at night when the dogs bark, with the hope in the back of our minds that somehow Adam has come home,” Laura told the courtroom. “Our pain never lessens, never. Our grief never ends, it just changes.”
They both say they miss everything about Adam — hearing him laugh, seeing his smile, listening to his jokes and hosting his friends.
Their younger son, Benjamin, has honored his brother by getting three tattoos that Adam had.
Trying to heal, Jesse and Laura regularly attend Compassionate Friends support group meetings in Richton Park, and Laura has attended a couple of meetings of Parents of Murdered Children. They also visit Adam’s grave twice a week at Assumption Cemetery in Glenwood.
Mostly, though, the family tries to stay busy. Jesse works as a laborer and does maintenance at a local country club, and Laura works as a teacher’s aide at O.W. Huth Middle School in Matteson.
They also donated a memorial tree and a bench in front of Rich East High School, where Adam wrestled before graduating in 2008.
Jesse still volunteers at the school’s concession stand as he has for the past nine years. Working there, he says, he sees his son’s smiling face in the faces of the children at the school.
The couple have also taken an interest in the issue of gun control, saying it could have helped save their son’s life.
“If he (Burns) didn’t have a gun or it was a fistfight, my son wouldn’t be dead,” Laura said. “It’s easy to point a gun at someone from far away and ruin peoples lives. He ruined his life, he ruined our life, and he ruined his family’s life for no reason. And he didn’t get the person he thought he was shooting at.”