Rose Eggers felt great sadness and grief after her husband of 44 years, Joel, was struck and killed while walking along a Boise street last spring.
Even so, Rose Eggers felt compassion for Tyler C. Martinez, 24, when he was sentenced Friday in Ada County District Court.
“I don’t believe he’s a monster,” she told Judge Richard Greenwood during the victim impact portion of the hearing. “I want him to understand what he did and the impact it’s had on our family.”
Martinez, handcuffed and secured with a belly chain, stood and apologized. He was high on methamphetamine when his 2005 Dodge Neon ran over Eggers on North Development Avenue on April 8.
“I’d like to say I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” he said. “I never meant to cause the death of a precious person.”
More than 70 people packed the courtroom — many of them wearing T-shirts with a drawing of Eggers wearing a radio headset and a cap for Firebird Raceway, where he spent 28 years as the head starter. Others wore shirts telling people not to text and drive, which Martinez said at one point he was doing when he struck Eggers, although authorities now do not believe him.
After a hearing that lasted nearly three hours, Greenwood said he wanted to take the lunch hour to ponder his decision. He later sentenced Martinez to eight to 15 years in prison.
He also suspended Martinez’s driver’s license for five years after he’s released from prison. He rejected a prosecution request that the license be suspended for life.
“It goes without saying this is a tragic case,” Greenwood said. Eggers, he added, was described as a “warm, generous man” who was “beloved by all.”
The judge said he took into account that Martinez came from a split family and that his mother spent time in prison for a drug conviction. He noted that Martinez played sports and graduated from high school, and had a loving father who mostly raised him as a single parent and held his son accountable for his actions.
But Martinez showed no compassion after, on his way home from work, he crossed the center line and hit Eggers, the judge said. Instead of getting out and trying to help Eggers, Martinez lit a cigarette and began deleting incriminating text messages from his phone that showed he was dealing drugs.
“The unfeeling and uncaring conduct exhibited at the scene doesn’t help,” Greenwood said.
Deputy Prosecutor Ben Harmer said Martinez had gotten a total of 10 hours of sleep over the previous four days and had injected methamphetamine that morning before going to work. Someone volunteered to drive him to work, but he turned down the offer.
Fifteen years is the most someone can serve in prison for this type of felony vehicular manslaughter. Defense attorney Kyle Schou had sought a lesser sentence, asking for a possible 10 to 13 years with only three before Martinez would be eligible for parole.
“It was a completely reckless, irresponsible decision to get behind the wheel of his car,” Schou said of Martinez. Still, he said, striking Eggers was not an intentional act.
In exchange for pleading guilty in November, the prosecution agreed to dismiss other charges of destruction of evidence and possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia.
Eggers’ children also spoke during the hearing. Shawn Eggers said his dad was his hero. Joel Eggers had season tickets for the Idaho Steelheads hockey team and had planned to go with his family to watch the team play the night he was killed.
He was also famous in his family for taking photographs of his grandchildren competing in sports events.
Jennifer Zavala said she wanted Martinez to know her father made a huge impact on everyone who knew him.
“He took our dad away from his physical life. But Tyler Martinez will never be able to take away the memories we have of him,” Zavala said.
Outside court, Rose Eggers said she was happy with the sentence.
“I just want him to get it” — to get the gravity of what he’d done and to change for the better, she said. “That’s the mom in me. I can’t sit there and look at him without seeing him as someone’s son.”