The People of the State of NY
I researched through public court documents to obtain facts related to this case and these words are my own.
People of State of NY v. Martin Heidgen is most likely the most devastating alcohol-related accident that I have read. (I realize that all alcohol-related accidents are tragic, this one in particular has been embedded in my mind for several years).
According to court documents, on July 1, 2005, Defendant, Martin Heidgen (a 24 year old), met a friend in Manhattan for drinks and consumed approximately six beers. After his friend left the bar, he stayed behind. Later that night (11:00 p.m. to midnight), the Defendant attended a party at a friend’s house and consumed several alcoholic beverages. Witnesses at the party indicated that he left without saying goodbye and although he had been drinking, he was not unsteady on his feet nor slurring his words.
At approximately 2:00 a.m., Defendant, Martin Heidgen, was driving on the wrong side of Meadowpoint Parkway, traveling approximately 70-75 mph for approximately 2 miles. After three separate witnesses attempted to get his attention by honking and flashing their headlights, he never deviated from the center lane nor reduced his speed.
Stanley Rabinowitz and Katie Flynn
Limo driver, Stanley Rabinowitz picked up Jennifer; her husband, Neil Flynn; their two little girls, Katie and Grace; along with family members, Christopher and Denise (parents of Jennifer Flynn). The family attended a wedding earlier in the day where seven year old, Katie was the flower girl. The family had been celebrating and were having a wonderful time together.
Stanley Rabinowitz was a 59 year old husband and father. Interestingly, Mr. Rabinowitz was known to provide drunk drivers a free ride home through his limousine company.
Martin Heidgen, after consuming approximately fourteen drinks, and being three-times the legal limit struck the limousine. The limousine was hit by Defendant’s vehicle with such intensity that the engine was pushed forward and into the lap of Mr. Rabinowitz, he was killed instantly. Jennifer Flynn and her husband, Neil, immediately began trying to locate their children (even though both were severely injured). Jennifer told Neil that Grace was trapped and they were unable to get her out of the car. Neil crawled out of the wreckage and attempted to seek help, even though he had a broken back. Jennifer’s father was thrown from the vehicle, his leg broken in several places (one leg was later amputated). Jennifer’s mother, Denise, was also severely injured and unable to move. After a few minutes, Jennifer found little Katie’s body sitting in her seatbelt and she had been decapitated from the force of the seatbelt. Jennifer screamed to Neil that Katy had died, Neil told her that she was just injured and it would be alright, however, Neil did not know Katie’s devastating injuries.
Michael Tangney, a police officer and the uncle of Jennifer Flynn, was one of the first on the scene. He ran and opened the door of the limousine and realized that it was his family. He too, had been at the wedding earlier. Off to the side of the street, he found his niece holding the head of her child and Jennifer was in shock.
Once rescuers came onto the scene and was able to get Grace out of the wreckage and into the ambulance, Michael Tangney was able to retrieve the child’s head from her mother after about an hour. Mr. Tangney told his niece that her daughter, Grace needed her in the ambulance. She handed her child’s decapitated head over to her uncle after giving Katie a kiss on the cheek.
Martin Heidgen was charged with two counts of second degree murder and first degree assault and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Families of both victims remained in the courtroom for duration of the five-week trial.
Tampering with evidence: During the trial, the Judge ordered the Defendant to provide a DNA sample. It appears that Martin Heidgen obtained saliva from another inmate and placed it in his cheek. When the DNA sample came back, there was Martin Heidgen’s DNA, along with another inmate. The Defendant was charged with tampering with evidence during the trial and four additional years was tacked onto his sentence.
In addition, Martin Heidgen challenged his conviction in the Court of Appeals of New York. He cited that the evidence was not legally sufficient to support his conviction and that he was too incapacitated to have committed murder (basically that he was too drunk to commit murder). The Court of Appeals upheld his murder conviction.
Several months after the trial, Jennifer and Neil Flynn shared their story on Oprah. They wanted to be a voice for their daughter, Katie (as well as Stanley) and show the devastation that drinking and driving has on families.
As for Martin Heidgen, he is currently serving his sentence at Woodbourne Correctional Facility (a medium security prison) as Inmate Number: 08A1782.