Victim's sister still shaken by Hell's Gate murder

Steven Cerna shot to death in drainage ditch

SAN ANTONIO – Three years after her brother was found shot to death, a San Antonio woman was able say how his death has affected her life.

As she arrived in court Wednesday for the third day of the murder trial of her brother’s accused killer, Stephanie Cerna said, “No one deserves to be left in a drainage ditch.”

‘I had an ugly feeling': Mother recalls final words to son before he was murdered

She was talking about the Feb. 20, 2015, slaying of her brother Stephen Cerna, 21. Robert Martinez, 22, is on trial for his murder.

Cerna's body was found in a North Side drainage ditch known as “Hell’s Gate.” 

He had been shot in the head four times.

His family said that Cerna left home at 3 a.m. with two men. His mother testified Tuesday that she had begged him not to go, saying that she had “an ugly feeling” about the men with whom he left with.

“It’s hard for us,” Stephanie Cerna said. “No one has actually put all the pieces together, to say from the moment he left until the moment they found him.”

She said that she shares the prosecution’s theory of the murder.

“It was part of a retaliation, basically,” she said. “They thought his cousin or somebody in our family had hurt somebody close to him, or even killed someone close to him.”

In his opening statement earlier this week, defense attorney Leland McCrae told the jury his client was innocent and the wrong man was on trial. 

If his is convicted, Martinez could face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Testimony is expected to continue Thursday in Judge Melisa Skinner’s 290th District Court.

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