The driver suspected in a hit-and-run crash that killed a 51-year-old New Britain woman in Newington was arrested after his involvement in a cockfighting ring out of East Windsor helped police identify him as the suspect, according to police sources.
Dennis Martinez, 36, of East Hartford, was charged with manslaughter after turning himself in to police shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Police sources said Martinez is among 45 people arrested in connection with a cockfighting bust last month.
He appeared in court on Wednesday, where bond was set at $150,000.
Martinez is accused of hitting Sonya Atkins in February at the corner of Willard and Robbins avenues in Newington, then abandoning his car and running from the scene. Atkins died at the hospital that night.
"It just struck the car in front of me, and then just like, flew to the right," explained Newington resident Andrey Klebanov, who witnessed the crash. "I just saw like, a big spark, black smoke everywhere, and car parts."
Police said at the time that the Ford involved in the crash had a temporary registration plate in the back window and may have been involved in another crash in the Puerto Vallarta parking lot at 2385 Berlin Turnpike in Newington.
According to police sources, investigators identified Martinez after they searched the car and found a bond form from his arrest in East Windsor.
"It's been extremely tough just knowing that this guy could have possibly walked free without our mother getting justice," said Atkins' daughter, Latrina Jackson. "It's been such a tough time. Our mother was the matriarch of our family."
Martinez has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, evading responsibility, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, driving an unregistered motor vehicle, driving without insurance and second-degree forgery.
He appeared in court on Wednesday and is due back in court on April 15.
"We're so relieved. We just want justice to be served for our mother, who didn't deserve this to happen to her," said Jackson. "It's really hard to explain how I feel. It's just... the devil, that's what I felt when I saw him. The devil."
Jackson has set up a GoFundMe page to help support the family Atkins leaves behind.