published Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Hamilton County judge sends vehicular homicide case to grand jury

  • photo
    Alicia Eliza Miguel, 25, was charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication in the death of her boyfriend Martin Martinez.
    Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

A Hamilton County Sessions Court judge sent a vehicular homicide case against a 25-year-old woman he called a "one-woman demolition derby" to the grand jury.

Judge Bob Moon commented Tuesday after the one-hour preliminary hearing that allegations against Alicia Eliza Miguel were more than a simple hit-and-run.

"This is a case of drink, kill and run," Moon said.

April Walker testified during the hearing that she heard noise outside her 3134 Seventh Ave. home at about 10 p.m. on July 30. She went outside and, while standing on the front porch, saw a maroon 2005 Ford Expedition revving its engine as the vehicle knocked a man behind it to the ground.

"Then I saw this person, they dropped, revved back up and ran over him again," Walker testified. "I saw her drop it into reverse like NASCAR. I could hear the ka-boom."

Martin Martinez, who had ridden in the sport utility vehicle with Miguel earlier that evening, died at the scene.

Miguel has been in custody on a $200,000 bond since her arrest the morning after the incident. On Tuesday, Moon raised the bond amounts on charges of leaving the scene of an accident and DUI from $10,000 to $50,000 each.

Walker's fiance, Paul Burnette Jr., testified that he'd seen Miguel speeding through the neighborhood earlier that night and saw her jump the curb, clipping the bicycle pedal of his son's friend, nearly striking two children.

Burnette said he called 911, but the operator told him police wouldn't respond because no crime had been committed.

"I knew it was an accident waiting to happen," Burnette testified.

Miguel, her wrists shackled, stood next to Moon's bench during testimony and talked with her attorney, Alan Beard.

Chattanooga police Officer Joe Warren testified that patrol officers found the SUV parked in the backyard of a 302 S. Moore Road home, where they also found Miguel.

Miguel's boyfriend, Marciel Verdugo Vasquez, told police that he and Miguel had been drinking alcohol since noon that day and began arguing with a family at 3207 Seventh Ave. Miguel decided she needed to leave, backed up and realized she'd hit someone, then drove away.

At first Miguel told police she didn't know anything about the death, Warren testified. But over the course of a two-hour interview in which she waived her right to legal counsel, she told police that she had driven the SUV and hit Martinez, Warren said.

When police tested her blood alcohol level, nearly seven hours after the incident, it measured 0.10. The legal limit for DUI is 0.08.

Trying to clarify how the vehicle struck Martinez, Beard asked Warren about impact and damage to the back of the SUV.

"It's confusing me that a window that high could have been broken out like that," Beard said. "What do you think could have struck a window like that?"

"His face," Warren replied.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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