HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday, Ernesto Martinez, 57, was sentenced to life plus 15 years behind bars for molesting two children. Martinez pled guilty to one count of Sexual Battery and one count of Touching of a Child for Lustful Purposes. Martinez was sentenced at the Harrison County Courthouse.
Prior to sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Alison Baker, read letters to the court that each of the victims had written. One victim wrote "I was very young when these events started happening, and I felt I had no way of stopping it. I can't change the past, so now I will live in the present and will continue to heal and get better every day." The second victim directed her letter to the Martinez and wrote, "You made me feel like I was worthless, but I am okay now. I am a strong young lady. You can't hurt me anymore."
At the sentencing, Martinez asked to turn and face the family, which was allowed. As he began to apologize, the victims left the courtroom. The judge then asked him to turn back around as it was apparent the families did not want to hear from him.
"Why would you do this?" Judge Dodson asked him. "You victimized these two young ladies for years, and I take that into consideration," she stated before imposing the sentence.
The investigation into the charges began in April 2017 when the two children told their parents the abuse was happening on a repeated basis. The parents immediately called the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. The victims were as young as 9 and 13 when the crimes began.
District Attorney Joel Smith said, "These girls have shown a tremendous amount of strength through this process and will now know that their voices were heard as they move forward from this chapter of their lives."
Due to the nature of the charges, Martinez will serve every day of the sentence and will not be eligible for parole or early release.