By Jen Russon
Ever since her partner and father of her children was killed just outside the entrance to their community, Kerina Rivera still can’t open her eyes while being driven near their apartment.
She remembers gripping a police officer’s vest, sobbing and nearly passing out after seeing the body of 26-year-old Gregory Martinez covered with a yellow tarp.
Since his death on June 25, Gregory’s parents and sister have been helping with his final arrangements, and haven’t been able to resume their lives back in New York until they get the closure they need. Martinez’s family has yet to see a finalized crash report and are not sure who was at fault in his fatal scooter crash.
What Rivera and Martinez’s family do have is an initial long-form crash report that put three vehicles at the scene of his death, just as Gregory was making a left hand turn into Napoli Gardens Apartments, where he lived with his partner, Kerina and their two children.
Headed southbound, Gregory was traveling in the left lane, at the intersection of Coral Springs Drive and NW 9th Manor. At the middle of the intersection, accident witnesses reported a gray SUV parked in the median and it is unclear to the victim’s family if this is the vehicle that collided with Gregory’s scooter causing him to be ejected, lying vulnerable in the road.
As a northbound car crossed the intersection at Coral Springs Drive and Coral Club Drive, the driver could not stop her vehicle in time before it ran over his body. In the report, Coral Springs Police stated there was nothing that driver could have done to anticipate a body lying in the middle of the road.
Police are proceeding with a homicide investigation that is not yet complete or available to Rivera and Martinez’s immediate family. Police place the accident at 6:34 p.m., around the time, Gregory would be in the place he cherished most: home with Rivera, their son, Maddox, 4, and daughter Sarai, 6.
Mercedes said it’s these kids, her precious grandchildren, who are getting the family through this. She and Rivera have a large, framed picture of Gregory propped up in the living room.
“I don’t think Maddox is old enough to understand what happened, but my daughter does, and she can’t believe it. When I first told her, ‘Papi died. He’s up in heaven now’, she said to me, “are you serious?’” recounts Rivera with tears streaming down her face.
She added that keeping things as normal as she can for her family is the most important thing she can do right now. She loves Coral Springs, even though it’s the scene of his senseless death, and wants to remain here for the schools and family-friendly community, Gregory also loved.
Rivera said Maplewood Elementary, which Sarai attends, is an excellent school, and that the occupational therapy, Maddox receives at Abi’s Place, is too important to give up.
As for Gregory’s mother, she is the last of his immediate family to stay behind and wait for the police to finish their final reports. Her other child, Melanie, and her husband have both returned to their home in New York.
The grieving mother said her son had called her one week before the crash to tell her that his life was finally perfect. After leaving behind a dangerous job in New York where he repaired cellphone towers, he finally had the job of his dreams and the perfect life in South Florida.
In the meantime, the family continues to reel from his senseless death, waiting for information from Coral Springs Police.
“I can’t wait to get his wallet back. Gregory was meticulous about keeping every last memento and receipt. The first thing I’m going to do is look for our ticket stubs to Toy Story 4,” said Rivera, who tearfully shared they saw the movie the night before he was killed.
She said she will always cherish that experience and is also grateful he knew she was pregnant before he died.
A Go Fund Me has been set up in Gregory’s memory.
*Corrections were made to this article following per Chris Swinson, Public Information Officer at the Coral Springs Police Department. Swinson spotted errors in the initial reporting.
- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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