'92 accident claims its 3rd victim

May 19, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The high-stakes game of "chicken" that Gregory and "Hot Shot" played in dueling trucks along a winding New Windsor road nearly a year and a half ago instantly claimed two lives.

Monday night, the head-on crash took another one.

James Gregory Martin -- convicted of two counts of automobile manslaughter by a Carroll jury in March for his role in the accident -- died shortly after 9 p.m. Monday at University Hospital in Baltimore of complications from the Dec. 12, 1992, collision. The 21-year-old New Windsor man had undergone throat surgery May 4 and, his family said, never fully recovered.

"He was a good-old country kid who enjoyed having fun," said Patricia J. Martin, his aunt. "This has been devastating on his parents and all of us."

Gregory Martin was born in New Windsor and never left, his oldest brother, Robert Neal Martin, said yesterday. "I don't think he was out of the state except for trips to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. He liked living here."

Growing up, he honed his shooting and fishing skills, and enjoyed owning Ford Mustangs, his brother Neal said. "He liked to hunt, and fish, and he loved his Mustangs."

He graduated from Francis Scott Key High School in 1991, where he pursued courses in agriculture and animal husbandry, said Principal George Phillips.

After graduation, he worked for a landscape firm. Neal Martin said his brother was planning to learn how to operate heavy construction machinery before the accident.

Gregory Martin loved playing practical jokes. That, Carroll prosecutors contended during his March trial on automobile manslaughter charges, might have accounted for the game of vehicular chicken that cost two of his friends their lives.

Prosecutors said Gregory, who was driving a pickup truck, was matching nerve with Carroll Lynn "Hot Shot" Schisler Jr., also in a truck, on Route 407. The two vehicles collided head-on, killing two passengers in young Martin's truck instantly.

The crash killed 25-year-old Gary Schisler, Carroll's brother, and 18-year-old Andy Stonesifer, both of New Windsor.

Testimony at Gregory Martin's trial showed that the Stonesifer, Schisler and Martin youths were close friends.

A falling-out between Gregory Martin and Carroll Schisler had disrupted that closeness shortly before the accident, testimony revealed.

The families have never reconciled; the Schislers have sued the Martins in Carroll Circuit Court, seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Yesterday, Judy Schisler -- Gary and Carroll's mother -- said the accident continues to be a tragedy for everyone.

"I feel very sorry for his parents," Mrs. Schisler said. "I know what they're going through. Myself, I have trouble feeling sorry for Greg, but I know it's a tough thing to lose your child."

Gregory Martin's parents -- Harold and Linda Martin -- declined to be interviewed.

Neal Martin said the family will miss his brother's happy smile and quiet humor.

"He was the kind of guy who liked to hide behind corners and jump out and scare you," his brother recalled.

But while the Martin family grieves for the youngest of three boys, they will continue to ask why he was prosecuted for what they insist was an accident.

"It didn't seem right to us," Neal Martin said. "Gregory was a victim, too."

The trial took less than three days.

A Carroll jury returned convictions on two counts of automobile manslaughter after an hour of deliberations. Gregory Martin was to be sentenced June 17.

Deputy State's Attorney Edward M. Ulsch prosecuted Gregory Martin. He learned of his death yesterday morning.

"This was such a horrible crash with so much damage," Mr. Ulsch said. "It's a wonder anybody walked away from it at all. Here we are a year and a half later, and here's an accident finally claiming its third victim."

Mr. Ulsch -- who has been a prosecutor for more than 15 years -- said he had never before had a case where a convicted person died before he could be sentenced.

"They're still the defendant and all, but they're still human beings. You certainly don't take any joy in anything like this," he said.

In addition to his parents and brother Neal, Gregory Martin is survived by another brother, David Duane Martin; a sister, Stephanie Janenice Martin; and several nieces and nephews. All are from New Windsor.

Friends may call from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. today, and 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Burrier-Queen Funeral Home on Liberty Road in Winfield. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home.

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