Uncle testifies that nephew admitted to 'Hell's Gate' murder

Testimony is part of plea agreement

SAN ANTONIO – The man who prosecutors said holds the key to solving a cold-case murder testified Thursday in the murder trial of Robert Martinez.

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

Martinez, 22, is on trial for the murder of Steven Cerna, 21, who was shot to death on Feb. 20, 2015. His body was found in a place known as Hell’s Gate.

Martinez’s uncle, Larry Isaac, 31, told the jury that Martinez admitted to the crime during a phone call days after the murder.

He said he asked Martinez to put Cerna on the phone.

“He couldn’t come to the phone,” Isaac said Martinez told him. “I said, ‘Why is that?’ and he says ‘Cause he’s in the dirt.’”

Isaac said that Martinez explained that he lured Cerna into the ditch with a promise to make some drug money.

“They walk through the ditch – there’s houses right there - and that’s when he takes his aim, shot and fires at him,” Isaac said. “He slumps over and he does one more shot.”

He said his nephew said the shooting was a retaliation hit.

“I guess one of the victim’s cousins had killed one of his (Martinez’s) best friends,” he testified.

Isaac testified as part of a plea agreement.

Suspect arrested in 'Hell's Gate' murder case

He is faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on kidnapping charges, which will be reduced to a maximum of nine years as part of the deal.

Closing arguments and jury deliberations are set for Friday morning in Judge Melissa Skinner’s 290th District Court.

If the jury finds Martinez guilty, he faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.

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