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East Hartford man sentenced to 5 years in prison for hit & run crash that killed New Britain woman

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NEW BRITAIN — Dennis Martinez was fleeing from a hit-and-run accident Feb. 27 when he barreled through a red light at more than 80 mph, striking a vehicle driven by Sonya Atkins and killing her. Monday, Martinez was sentenced to 10 years in prison, suspended after 5 years and 5 years probation. He will also need to complete 250 hours of community service.

He was sentenced in New Britain Superior Court for 2nd degree manslaughter.

Martinez, 36, of East Hartford ran away after the crash but turned himself in to Newington Police a few weeks later.  His license was suspended, and the red 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck he was driving had a fraudulent temporary license plate, court records say.

Records show the truck’s speedometer needle was stuck at 83 mph, which investigators concluded was the likely speed at the moment of the crash, the affidavit says. The speed limit for that stretch of road on Willard Avenue is 40 mph.

“His character shows he is not a good person, he left a scene from crime, he left my sister for dead,” Clinton said.

Sonya Atkins, a 53 year old New Britain resident was driving a 2005 Mazda on her way home when the accident happened.  She was later pronounced dead at Hartford Hospital.

Atkins worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Wethersfield for 30 years and was a mother of two grown children.  Her family says her funeral was attended by more than 1,000 people in downtown New Britain.

“My sister was a class act, she touched a lot of people,” said Tasha Clinton, Sonya Atkins’ sister.

According to witness statements,  moments before the accident, Martinez fled from another accident when striking another vehicle while backing out of a parking space at Aucello Eyecare Center on the Berlin Turnpike. The parking lot is often used as an overflow lot for the nearby Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant.

When Martinez drove away, the driver of the other car followed him in an attempt to get his license plate number and continued to trail Martinez as he accelerated to a high rate of speed and drove through red lights, the affidavit says.


Police suspect someone, possibly a girlfriend may have picked up Martinez and took him away from the scene.