‘Execution style murder': Convicted ‘Hell's Gate' killer sentenced to 99 years in prison

Robert Martinez convicted of killing Steven Cerna in 2015

SAN ANTONIO – It took a jury just over an hour Wednesday to decide that Robert Martinez, 22, should spend 99 years in prison for the murder of Steven Cerna in the winter of 2015.

Cerna, 21, was shot to death in the early morning hours of Feb. 20, 2015, after Martinez lured him to a drainage ditch known as “Hell’s Gate.”

Last week, Martinez’s uncle, Larry Isaac, 31, testified that his nephew admitted to him that he killed Cerna.

Isaac testified for the state as part of a plea bargain in a kidnapping case pending against him.

He said that Martinez told him that he killed Cerna in retaliation for the murder of a friend in which he believed Cerna’s family was involved.

“This was not a retaliatory strike,” defense attorney Leland McCrae told the jury during closing arguments. “There’s no evidence of that, not one drop of evidence other than Larry Isaac.”

“He didn’t deserve to die just because he (Martinez) wanted retaliation,” prosecutor Melissa Saenz countered. “Just because he wanted revenge.”

Saenz called Cerna’s murder “an execution."

Martinez must serve 30 years of his 99-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.


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