December 31, 2008

12/31/08: David Martinez, 26, Cherry Hill, NJ

David Martinez, 26, a security guard from Berlin of Camden County, NJ, had the night off from his job as a security guard to celebrate New Year's Eve.On Wednesday, December 31, 2008, Martinez and about ten of his high school friends went to a popular nightspot on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. They arrived at Taylor's Restaurant and Bar at 9 p.m. and paid a $65 cover charge to ring in the New Year.

At about 1 a.m., Martinez left Taylor's Bar without his jacket. According to Martinez's friends, David was kicked out of the bar by bouncers to make room for more customers waiting in line outside the bar. It was the last time David Martinez was seen by anyone. After the party, he was supposed to meet up with his friends at the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel where they had a room for the night, but he never showed.

At 9 p.m. the next day, police found Martinez's body at the bottom of a decorative pond outside Taylor's Bar frozen under one-inch of ice.

Search and Recovery
On Thursday, January 1, Guiseppina (Josie) Martinez received a phone call from her son's boss asking why David hadn't shown up for work as a mall security guard. Ms. Martinez knew something was terribly wrong. David had agreed to work overtime on New Year’s Day to fill in for someone who was sick, and he had his uniform and lunch prepared in advance. She immediately phoned David's friends and learned they had not seen him since 1 a.m. the night before.

At 6 p.m. that same day, Ms. Martinez reported her son missing and a missing persons report was quickly filed. For the next few hours, she and the police searched the area around Taylor's Bar for any signs of David.

At 9 p.m., police found the body of David Martinez outside Taylor's Bar in a 3-foot deep decorative landscaping pond that housed a fountain. Firefighters were called to cut through the one inch of ice that had accumulated during the the night. An autopsy confirmed that David Martinez had drowned in the pond. Cherry Hill Detective Sgt. Joseph Vitarelli Jr. said Martinez had marks on his chin and may have struck one of the many metal fountains in the pond when he fell. He said, "He may have been knocked out, it's not that deep and there's no evidence that he tried to get out." He said foul play was not suspected. Friday afternoon, Camden County Medical Examiner Dr. Feigen, ruled the cause of death drowning, and said until toxicology reports were available, believed the death to be accidental.

Unanswered Questions
Authorities and the Martinez family are still trying to figure out how the young man could have fallen into the fountain without being noticed by anyone. The pond is on a small lawn a few feet from the Taylor's Bar parking lot and is accessible to anyone outside the bar. Water from the pond runs into a waterfall that cascades onto the bar's outside deck. The pond is nearly at ground level, dimly lit, and has no safety fencing. David's family has hired an attorney, believing his death was preventable. Taylor's Nightclub has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Captain Joseph Bowen of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office confirmed that David Martinez had been "removed" from the bar but couldn't say why. Taylor's Bar general manager, Rich Bunt, said he also did not know why Martinez was kicked out of the bar that night.

Anyone who may have seen David Martinez between 1 a.m.-2 a.m. on January 1, 2009 are urged to call the Camden police.

About David Martinez
David Martinez was born in Italy and grew up in Texas and Colorado before moving to South Jersey in 1994 because his father, Michael, worked for the military, his family said. After graduating from Lenape High school in Burlington County, Martinez earned a Criminal Justice degree at Stockton College in Atlantic City and had just graduated in the spring. David also joined the Army and later switched to the Air Force Reserves. His mother said that just two days before his death, he was approved to apply for a corrections officer for the CIA/FBI in New Jersey. She said she had never seen her son David so happy as when he drove to the post office to mail his application.

Facts of Interest
Name/age: David Martinez, 26
Last seen: 12/31/08, Taylor's Bar, Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ
Recovered: 1/1/08, landscaping fountain outside Taylor's Bar
Residence: Berlin, NJ
Cause of death: drowning
Manner of death: accident


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