Victim’s sister reads impact statement after Port Arthur man is sentenced

Published 12:28 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Port Arthur man found guilty of murder in the 2019 shooting death of a Beaumont man has been sentenced to more than four decades in jail.

The fatal shooting followed a brief altercation at a Beaumont restaurant.

The sentence handed down Friday was 46 years in prison.

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Proceedings concluded Friday afternoon in the 252nd District Court under the direction of Judge Raquel West, where the jury met to determine the punishment for Martin Vincent Pettway.

The guilty verdict was returned Friday morning. Deliberations began Thursday.

Pettway, 23, shot Jesse Rodriguez on Aug. 17, 2019, while Rodriguez was waiting at a stoplight at the intersection of Dowlen Road and Eastex Freeway.

Pettway was in a vehicle behind Rodriguez when five rounds were shot from the backseat window. One hit Rodriguez in the back of the head.

The two had a verbal altercation at nearby Cicis after Rodriguez bumped into someone’s chair.

Following two days of testimony, the jury began deliberating just after 10 a.m. Thursday.

After delivering a guilty verdict Friday morning, Rodriguez’ sister Kassandra Castillo gave a victim’s statement.

“All the brothers loved him,” she said. They respected him. He was the role model.”

Castillo said Rodriguez had just recently gotten hired at a refinery and was excited to start his new job.

“He really was the glue that held us all together, so holidays feel very empty without him,” she said while crying on the stand. “It’s hard to see a part of my mom missing… We do everything still with Jesse in mind.”

Prosecutor Luke Nichols and defense attorney Audwin Samuel addressed the jury members directly before they began to deliberate on sentencing.

“You didn’t hear any evidence that he’s ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor,” Samuel said. “I ask that you deliberate. I ask that you think of any questions you may have had during this process, any doubt that you may have had. Justice comes, in my opinion, from above.”

The defense attorney said two families are affected by the shooting.

“One truth. One God. I just ask that you at this time consider mercy and give a sentence that would allow him another opportunity,” Samuel said.

Nichols took a much different approach.

“There’s nothing more senseless than this murder,” he told jurors. “This isn’t a drug deal gone bad or a gang shooting or robbery or one of the dozens of reasons people shoot each other.”

It was, he said, just kids going to eat pizza.

“I am sorry for the family of the defendant, but he put them here,” Nichols said. “He put these people here. Because of what he did, they don’t get to see Jesse or hear him. There’s a baby outside that will never get to know her uncle.”

After the verdict was read, Castillo returned to give a victim impact statement through tears.

“Jesse loved his family, his friends, especially his truck,” she said. “He loved kids. He texted me often. Before you took his life, he called me, excited because he got a new job that paid really well.”

Castillo said the day her brother died, their mother called her crying.

“It was a cry I’d never heard come from her,” she recalled.

The victim’s sister said she later sat in a chair wondering how the family would pay for a funeral they never anticipated, but was able to give him a “beautiful burial and beautiful memorial.” They also paid off Jesse’s truck so they could keep it because it meant so much to him.

She then spoke directly to Pettway and said he wasn’t only a murderer, but also a thief.

“I really hoped that you hugged your family before they put you in handcuffs … because you robbed us of that opportunity,” she said.

Pettway will receive time served for the near-three years he’s been incarcerated.