4 Investigates: Waiting for justice
GALLUP, N.M. — Raven Livingston would have turned 31 this summer.
It’s been five and a half years since she died in a car crash, but Raven’s mother Jeulina won’t ever forget that night.
“Her friend came over and she said, ‘Mom, I’m going to the movies,’” Juelina Livingston says. “I said, ‘Okay, make sure you come back.’ She goes, ‘Yeah, I will.'”
On Dec. 30, 2017, Raven and three friends were headed to the movies at Gallup’s Red Rock 10 theater.
It was dark, around 10 o’clock.
As they approached the intersection of Toltec and East Route 66 to take a left turn, Raven was in the front passenger seat. According to the accident report, speeding toward their Jeep in his own SUV was Timothy Martine, Jr.
He technically would have had the right of way, but crash data shows Martine should have never been in the intersection. His Nissan Xterra’s speed peaked at 93 miles per hour three seconds before the crash. He was going almost 80 when he slammed into Raven’s door and the front quarter panel of the Jeep.
Rescue crews rushed Raven to the hospital, but she died of her injuries.
A 4 Investigates review of the case shows police got to work getting blood samples from both drivers. The driver of the Jeep Raven was in showed a 0.0 percent blood alcohol level. Martine, who admitted to paramedics and police that he’d been drinking, tested at 0.04 BAC and also showed 110.3 ng/ml of Carboxy THC, a metabolite of cannabis.
Witnesses told police they didn’t remember Martine having switched on the headlights of his Xterra.
Gallup Police searched both SUVs, pulled their electronic control modules – the “black box” of a vehicle – to see how fast they had been going, and reconstructed the accident.
Months turned to years, though, as police returned to the case in 2019 and 2020. Then, the pandemic set in the case stalled.
Jeulina Livingston wondered what was happening with the case.
“That’s why I tried reaching out to them, but no callbacks,” she said.
Then one day in 2022, she learned prosecutors had taken the case to a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides if there’s enough evidence to hold a case over for a trial.
Just a fraction of all that evidence was presented by Chief Deputy District Attorney Mandana Shoushtari. Three key witnesses from Gallup Police didn’t show up and according to a court transcript, the detective on the case didn’t testify about the narrative of the case – the “what happened” of the crash.
Saying he took no joy in doing so, District Court Judge R. David Pederson dismissed the case.
“One of the elements that’s missing here is there is absolutely no testimony about the operation of the defendant’s vehicle,” Judge Pederson explained in court that day. “There’s no testimony that he was speeding. There’s no testimony that he was driving in what I call a deviant manner or dangerous manner. These are very complicated cases. And forensic and scientific evidence is extremely important to move these cases forward. It’s been four years.”
Gallup Police Chief Franklin Boyd has since retired, but he signed time sheets that show crash investigator Lt. Francie Martinez, supervising Sgt. Terrance Peyketewa and lead officer Justin Benally all on the clock working 12-hour shifts the day of the preliminary hearing.
Department policy states officers who don’t show up for court face discipline. Current GPD Chief Erin Toadlena-Pablo did not respond to 4 Investigates’ questions about whether any of the officers were reprimanded.
At the hearing, Shoushtari told the judge she planned to appeal his dismissal, but that never happened and it’s now too late to do so.
Legal experts say it would probably be easier to refile charges, but that hasn’t happened, either.
The deadline for doing so is just months away. New Mexico law says prosecutors have six years to file charges for most second-degree felonies like vehicular homicide.
4 Investigates asked District Attorney Bernadine Martin why the case hadn’t been refiled or appealed. She initially indicated she favored refiling. When KOB asked her to speak on camera, she refused, saying the case was “technically in the investigation stage.” She did not respond to questions about what hadn’t been investigated and whether the case had been fully investigated prior to the preliminary hearing four years after the crash.