Mother formally charged in death of infant daughter

Written by
Warren Bluhm

Door County Advocate
10:29 AM, Nov. 8, 2011|

An 8-month-old Brussels girl died of
environmental hyperthermia after being left
in an overheated sport utility vehicle,
according to the criminal complaint filed
Tuesday against her mother.

Melissa Martinez, 33, made her initial
appearance in Door County Circuit Court
and was formally charged with two felonies,
homicide by intoxicated use of a motor
vehicle and child neglect resulting in death.

Elena Martinez was found in the car seat of
her mother’s car shortly after 5 p.m. Oct.
19. The car was left running with the heat
turned up for an indefinite period of time;
Martinez had missed a 1 p.m. appointment
to enroll her two children at a local child
care center.

Judge D. Todd Ehlers told Martinez she
faced a maximum possible sentence of 25
years in prison and a $100,000 fine on
each count. He scheduled a preliminary
hearing in the case for 8 a.m. Nov. 17.

According to the criminal complaint,
Martinez told authorities that she put Elena
in the car seat and started the vehicle to
keep her warm “for about 15 minutes,”
and later said it was around 6:30 a.m. –
although Martinez’s mother, Darlene Buhr,
told police she had picked up Melissa’s
other daughter around 10:30 a.m. and
Elena was inside the rented mobile home
at the time.

Buhr suspected Martinez had been
drinking and tried calling her 10 times
during the afternoon, and finally another
daughter, Hope DeFere, went to the mobile
home just after 5 p.m. After a brief search
the two women found Elena not breathing
and without a pulse in the SUV, the
complaint said.

The little girl was pronounced dead after
she arrived at 6:05 p.m. at Door County
Ministry Health Care Center. The
emergency room doctor said Elena’s
interior body temperature was 107.9 when
she arrived at the hospital.

A preliminary breath test when Martinez
was booked into the jail around 9:40 p.m.