WATERBURY — Yolanda Martinez’s home is empty because of the violence that ripped her family apart. Nothing feels right. She feels cold and alone. Some nights are sleepless.
All that heartache and more that was inflicted upon her and her family is because of the violent death of her son, Salomon Martinez.
While an attorney for Yolanda Martinez detailed that turmoil, the men convicted of killing her son looked on and listened as they stood nearby in Waterbury Superior Court on Thursday awaiting their prison sentences.
“You’re criminals, I won’t see my son again because of what you did,” she said in Spanish as she fought through tears. “May god have mercy on you.”
Matthew Chandler and Kyle Gonzalez, both 23, had faced a murder charge in connection with their roles in Martinez’s death. Martinez died after falling several stories from a Naugatuck home in 2013 after he was chased to an upstairs bedroom during a fight. As part of a plea deal, they were convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault.
Chandler, who was found to have less responsibility than Gonzalez, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years special parole as part of the deal. Gonzalez was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which will be followed by five years of probation after he’s released.
The fight that led to Martinez’s fall erupted after two men lost a $10 wager that was placed on a game of beer pong, a drinking game played with cups, pingpong balls and a table.
Several men at the party swung at each other, bottles were thrown and a fish tank was shattered during the brawl at 8 Pond St., in which at least one person was briefly knocked unconscious, witnesses told police.
During that chaos, a witness told police that Chandler and Gonzalez chased Martinez up a set of stairs and into a child’s bedroom, where he tried to shut the door on his pursuers.
At least one of the men was armed with a knife and stabbed at the door.
At some point, Martinez, of Stratford, plummeted from the window, but it’s unclear how that occurred.
Martinez, 24, suffered massive injuries, including broken legs, a fractured skull and organ damage by the time emergency responders made it to him. He was on life support in the intensive care unit for more than a week before his death.
The apartment was a wreck when police arrived — shards of glass were on the floor, blood smears were on the wall and the lower half of a fourth-floor bedroom window was shattered.
The killing left Martinez’s 7-year-old daughter fatherless and the little girl constantly wants to know where her father is, according to Martinez’s brother. His blood boils when he looks upon the “monsters” who took away his big brother, a man who encouraged him to do well in life, Martinez’s brother said.
While calling the act senseless, Judge Roland Fasano told Martinez’s family the prison time the men received doesn’t reflect the value of Martinez’s life. A man is dead and two others are heading to prison for their substantive years, he said.
“All for what? For absolutely nothing,” he said.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Terence D. Mariani said an issue in the case was who actually went into the room after Martinez, which is part of the reason for the plea deal.
Gonzalez took primary responsibility for Martinez’s death, admitting that he went into the room as he chased Martinez. Chandler was bleeding from a cut he received during the fighting, but investigators didn’t find his blood in the bedroom, Mariani has previously said.
But Mariani said Martinez was dead because “these drunken bullies,” referring to Chandler and Gonzalez, needed to prove they were men.
Chandler and Gonzalez had little to say for themselves when given the opportunity. Gonzalez took exception to being called a bully by Mariani. Gonzalez admitted that the fight was senseless and that no daughter should be without her father.
“It wasn’t us that started the fight,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t us that hit a female.”
The “bullies” comment also drew criticism from Chandler’s attorney, Ioannis Kaloidis, who called it inappropriate.
Many people played a role in the fight that night, Kaloidis said, adding that Martinez had broken a fish tank and went after Chandler with a shard of glass.
“The evidence presented showed that the deceased really elevated the fight to a dangerous level,” he said.
A lawsuit filed by Martinez’s mother is still pending against Gonzalez, the borough of Naugatuck and the property owners of the Pond Street home.