OGDEN -—The sister of an Ogden man shot to death in January testified Friday about the moment she realized her brother was dead.
On the evening of Jan. 22, Jessica Martinez said she and her older brother, Ernesto Martinez, as well as another friend stopped at the Sinclair convenience store at 110 Patterson Ave. in Ogden to buy a lighter and a Snickers bar.
She identified in court 19-year-old Thomas Lovato as the man she saw her brother and his friend speaking with before the fatal shooting.
With the friend in the back and Ernesto in the front passenger seat, Martinez said, she started to drive away when over a dozen gunshots sliced through her vehicle. She heard the friend tell her to get down, and she ducked, still driving, until her car plowed into a pile of snow and stopped.
After the shooting stopped, Martinez said, she touched her brother’s shoulder and said, “Get up.” But he didn’t move.
Ernesto Martinez, 32, suffered two gunshot wounds to the head and died at the scene. The friend in the backseat took off running, and Lovato was arrested 24 hours later with the help of tips from the public, according to court testimony.
Weber County attorneys have charged Lovato with one count of murder, a first-degree felony; two counts of attempted murder, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; and reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
A residence near the gas station was struck by seven bullets, prosecuting attorney Teral Tree said.
Defense attorney Cara Tangaro alluded that Lovato’s narrative will be that he shot in self-defense. Ernesto Martinez had been a member of the Ogden Trece gang for four years, his sister testified under cross-examination.
At the mention of the gang, someone in the courtroom gallery said aloud, “What does it matter?” A Weber County bailiff admonished the individual for the outburst.
Tree said Lovato admitted to police he fired the shots that killed Martinez, left the scene, showered, and disposed of his cellphone and the clothes he had been wearing.
Ogden City police detectives Travis Kearl and Reed Mackley testified for the state on the investigation leading to Lovato’s arrest.
Second District Judge Noel Hyde found the state proved probable cause as to all five charges, despite Tangaro’s argument the two attempted murder charges should be reduced to reckless endangerment. She said Lovato wasn’t trying to hurt the driver or backseat passenger when he shot, based on the placement of the bullet holes in the vehicle.
Prosecuting attorney Dee Smith countered, “You don’t fire 15 shots at three people without the intent to cause death. We’re lucky we don’t have three victims here.”
Through his attorneys, Lovato pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Hyde ruled Lovato was not eligible for a bail setting due to the violent nature of the alleged offense.
Hyde indicated his decision was also influenced by posts on Lovato’s Instagram account, which were presented by the state during the bail consideration portion of the hearing. The posts illustrate Lovato “embraces a defiant and threatening lifestyle,” Hyde said.
Hyde scheduled Lovato’s trial for Nov. 29, 2017.
Contact reporter Nadia Pflaum at email@example.com.