LOGAN SQUARE — A man accused of fatally shooting one of his sisters and injuring another when they tried to get him to stop partying in their Logan Square home in 2011 has pleaded guilty to one count of murder, according to court records.
Francisco Martinez, 31, sentenced to 32 years in prison, was "not in his right state of mind" at the time of the shooting, the surviving sister said, explaining how she worked to reduce his punishment because "we weren't raised to hate."
The surviving sister, Erminia Martinez, on Wednesday recounted the bloody scene from the family’s dining room, weaving a tale of inexplicable rage and forgiveness in the process. A small white scar is all that’s physically left behind from the moment when her brother pulled the trigger, shooting her near the right temple.
The bullet exited near her right ear, fractured her skull and left her hospitalized, but the emotional scar has lingered over the years, she said, both for Francisco and his family.
“He’s devastated. It pains him that he would do something like that to us,” she said of her brother, who bears the burden of shooting his sisters in the midst of a drunken stupor that he says he can’t remember.
Martinez, was charged with murdering 22-year-old Isabella Martinez and critically injuring Erminia in October 2011 when the two women teamed up to make end to a party he was having in the backyard of their home in the 2300 block of North Harding Avenue.
A family fight ensued, and both sisters were shot in the head by their brother — first Isabella, who died instantly, then Erminia, she said.
Surrounded by dozens of family photos proudly displayed in the Logan Square home, Erminia said that of four siblings, she's the only one left — the family’s oldest brother, Juan, died two years before the shooting, Isabella was killed that day and Francisco has been in jail ever since the tragedy.
Her mother and father sat in the kitchen, occupied with phone calls as Erminia's nephews kept busy with school work and video games.
According to Erminia, her brother remembers nothing of the incident because he was so drunk.
He was drinking that night because the two-year anniversary of their oldest brother's death was that week. When told later what he did, he couldn't believe it, Erminia said of the brother who protected her and her sister in their youth.
Martinez may have been drugged that night, or maybe a history of mental illness that drove his father to violence and alcohol abuse in their youth had been passed down to Francisco, she said, trying to find a reason for what happened.
“He was not in his right state of mind. And given that our situation was so incredibly unbelievable, you just go into shock,” she said.
The moment Martinez pulled the trigger with an “enraged” expression on his face, she felt a “strong impact” and a ringing in her ears, grabbed onto a fence for support and was taken to the hospital where two days went by before she was told her sister was dead.
It all happened in a matter of seconds, she said. It was three months before she was able to look her incarcerated brother in the eye.
“When I first walked in to see him he just looked at me and the tears came down — he just broke down,” she said.
“I said, ‘I know that wasn’t you, we’re family and we’re going to get through this'.”
And she kept her word. Martinez’s immediate family visits him monthly, despite the objections of other family members.
The family agreed to a plea bargain during the trial, working with a public defender and prosecutors in an attempt to lessen Martinez’s sentence from a minimum of 76 years. Erminia even searched for precedent cases that could help her brother, she said, but she couldn’t find any nearing the degree of violence she experienced.
In the end, his family would have liked to have seen his sentence less than 32 years. But the sentence was “a fair exchange” considering the magnitude of Martinez’s crime, Erminia said.
“It was painful to lose my sister. I can’t act like Isabella’s life wasn’t worth anything, and the family knows he needed a sentence like that … but it’s just like losing another one.”
“At the end of the day, we’re family; we weren’t raised to hate,” she continued. “We’re the ones who have to live with the scar.”
And that understanding, she said, is what helped her forgive Martinez for everything he did.
“Why was I the only one left? What was the purpose of me being here?” she asked. “That thought helped me put things in perspective and that’s what made me forgive him. We have to be strong and keep going. We have to have faith and hope.”
"We had a loving family," she said. "We can live with the happy memories."
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