Wednesday, July 24, 2024

ICE quietly moves Wilmington hit-and-run suspect to Atlanta. It’s unclear if he’ll return

Although online records show Jose Heredia-Martinez was moved to an Atlanta prison used to house immigrants for deportation, the agency won't confirm they've taken him out of the Wilmington area. The District Attorney's office said it is unaware of how the man was arrested, or when - or even if - he will be returned to stand charges.

2006 Acura MDX after the hit-and-run on Thursday, Jan. 18. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Broden Askew)
2006 Acura MDX driven by Ashley High School student Julianna Askew after the hit-and-run on Thursday, Jan. 18. Jose Heredia-Martinez, the driver suspected hitting Askew, flipping her car, is now in federal custody. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY BRODEN ASKEW)

WILMINGTON — Several weeks after a hit-and-run left a young Ashley High School student’s car upside down in a ditch, the legal fate of the suspect remains uncertain. Jose Heredia-Martinez, who was charged with felony hit-and-run after the incident, is now apparently caught between several jurisdictions.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, Heredia-Martinez was allegedly driving a large pickup truck on Masonboro Loop Road, traveling at high speeds and weaving in and out of traffic. Heredia-Martinez allegedly struck 16-year-old Julianna Askew’s car, flipping it twice. Askew’s vehicle came to rest upside down by the side of the road; Heredia-Martinez reportedly continued driving.

Jose Heredia-Martinez, 25, was arrested following a hit-and-run. He was released on bond and arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY WILMINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT)
Jose Heredia-Martinez, 25, was arrested following a hit-and-run. He was released on bond and arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY WILMINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT)

Wilmington police arrested Heredia-Martinez several days later, charging him with both felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run, driving without a license and failure to yield or reduce speed. According to Linda Rawley Thompson, spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department, during the course of the investigation the WPD determined Heredia-Martinez, a Mexican national, was in the country illegally.

WPD contacted Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers, according to Rawley Thompson. Meanwhile, Heredia-Martinez was processed and released after a family member helped him post a $5,000 bond.

It’s not entirely clear what happened next.

ICE agents step in

Heredia-Martinez, still out on bond, was scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Friday, Jan. 25. A court date was set for Thursday, Feb. 15., and Heredia-Martinez apparently left the courthouse.

The same day, ICE agents took Heredia-Martinez into custody, according to Spokeswoman Tamara Spicer.

The District Attorney’s office “works closely with local and federal authorities whose responsibility it is to monitor status,” according to Assistant to the District Attorney Samantha Dooies. However, it appears neither the DA’s office or WPD were involved with the ICE arrest.

Dooies said the DA’s office “can’t speak to how Mr. Heredia-Martinez was arrested or what ICE’s procedures are for taking people into custody.”

Where is Heredia-Martinez now?

According to online records maintained by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Jose Heredia-Martinez has been moved to a federal prison for deportees in Atlanta, Georgia. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT)
According to online records maintained by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Jose Heredia-Martinez has been moved to a federal prison for deportees in Atlanta, Georgia. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT ONLINE DETAINEE LOCATOR SYSTEM)

According to ICE’s online records, Heredia-Martinez is now at the Stewart Detention Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. Stewart is the largest of ICE’s detention facilities and handles deportation cases for Georgia, as well as North and South Carolina.

ICE declined to comment on Heredia-Martinez’s whereabouts and would not confirm information on the agency’s online detainee locator system. A spokesperson for the agency further declined to say if Heredia-Martinez was being scheduled for deportation or whether he will face charges in another jurisdiction.

The spokesperson would say that ICE’s normal procedure was to ensure that suspects appear for trial in local jurisdictions before the agency begins deportation hearings. Those may include charges in South Carolina and Georgia, but ICE would not make a specific comment. A man with the same name – and fitting Heredia-Martinez’s description – was recently arrested in York County, South Carolina – but the York County Sheriff’s Office has not yet confirmed it is the same person.

What’s next?

ICE spokeswoman Spicer had no further information on Heredia-Martinez, nor a timetable for what would happen next.

Whatever ICE plans for Heredia-Martinez, the agency has not informed WPD or the District Attorney’s office. According to Dooies, there has been “(n)o word when/if the defendant will return to Wilmington.”

Dooies added that while Heredia-Martinez’s status is unresolved, the DA considers the case active.

“(U)ntil he is deported, we will make an effort to move forward with the case,” Dooies said.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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