Hutto man arrested, charged in deadly racing crash

Hernan Abel Martinez (Williamson County Sheriff's Office)
Hernan Abel Martinez (Williamson County Sheriff's Office)

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Three months after the street racing crash that killed a woman and critically injured her husband in Williamson County, the man suspected of causing her death has been arrested.

Hernan Abel Martinez, 23, was booked into the Williamson County Jail Thursday on multiple charges related to the crash, including racing on highway causing death and racing on a highway causing serious bodily injury. If convicted, the felony comes with a punishment of two to 20 years in prison.

Court documents show Martinez shouldn’t have been behind the wheel in the first place. Records show he did not have a valid driver’s license for the past several years and was recently arrested in June 2016 for a DWI offense.

On Dec. 14, Joan and Robert Chaney were driving home from the grocery store on Farm to Market 1325 in Round Rock when DPS troopers say the Hutto man was in his Lexus racing another vehicle on FM 1325 when he struck the couple’s Mercury Grand Marquis at the intersection of Northridge Road. The impact caused the Marquis to split in half and hit a parked Ford Mustang nearby.

Joan and Robert Chaney (Courtesy/Pam Waters)
Joan and Robert Chaney (Courtesy/Pam Waters)

Joan Chaney, 68, was in the passenger seat of the Marquis and died on impact. Her husband, Robert, who was driving the car, was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he spent several weeks recovering. A couple of weeks later, he died in his sleep due to heart failure.

“He took the life of my mother immediately. And then, my father six weeks later,” their oldest daughter, Pam Waters, said.

The couple had been married for more than 40 years and had four adult children, as well as 10 grandchildren.

The couple’s oldest daughter is spreading a message about the dangers of street racing in Texas and is calling for stricter penalties with the hope of preventing tragedies like the one that ended in the death of her parents.

Speaking about Martinez, Waters said, “He made a conscious decision to get behind the wheel of a car that day and not only to drive, but to drive fast and to make a decision to race somebody.”

“I want a message to be delivered. It’s not okay what he did. It’s not okay for anyone to drive at that rate of speed — especially on a public highway, or street, or busy intersection,” said Waters, crying. “I want the message to be out there that this is not going to be tolerated. I don’t want it happening to other people. It’s happened way too often lately.”

The Round Rock Police Department confirmed with KXAN that street racing is on the rise.

“We are seeing more of the tragedies that come out of the racing incidents,” said Officer Adam Rankin, who’s assigned to the traffic division at RRPD.

Rankin says suspects in racing don’t have a set description.

“We’ve seen older drivers and younger drivers, men and women, import cars, domestic cars, there’s no stereotypical racer or racing vehicle. It’s a mix across the board,” said Rankin. “To the people that participate in racing, it’s not a victim-less crime, as we’ve seen around the area locally and in our city. There’s tragedies that happen and innocent lives get lost. So, please, think twice. Use your better judgment and don’t participate in these kind of behaviors.”

“It’s dangerous,” Waters added. There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s not on our highways.”

She says she never would have expected to lose her parents like this.

“They stopped at the grocery store to get something for dinner and they literally were turning onto the street to their neighborhood to go home,” Waters said. “Here comes two people in two different cars and they hit them for no reason, and the other car left and they got away.”

It’s unclear at this time whether Martinez knew the driver of the other vehicle he was racing that night, or whether that person could also face charges.

Consequences for racing

Street racing is a class B misdemeanor.

That means if you are convicted of racing you could face up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

If someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result of that racing, that’s punishable as a felony, meaning 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

You could face a civil lawsuit if anyone is hurt or killed. Lastly, if you’re convicted of racing, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for at least one year.

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