Jennifer Spillman Martello rushed out of her Hamburg home in the early morning hours of Tuesday, despite her husband’s objections.
Minutes later, she was lying in the roadway, fatally injured.
She was distraught and wanted to go for a drink after learning Monday that she had lost out on a job at a nursing home because she had not shown up in time to take a medical screening test, according to her husband, Sam Martello.
He told police he tried to stop her, but the 29-year-old woman headed outside and walked east on Big Tree Road. She had made it a couple hundred yards when she was apparently struck by a vehicle that fled the scene.
Though Sam Martello reported Tuesday on a Facebook page that his wife had died, she is being kept on life support at Erie County Medical Center so that doctors can harvest her organs for transplant, her husband confirmed Wednesday.
Because of that circumstance, an autopsy has been delayed, leaving police unable to definitely conclude whether she was struck by a vehicle, though they say there are indications she is the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
In an interview Wednesday, Sam Martello explained what happened just before she walked out of their home.
“She had not been accepted for a job at Elderwood as a certified nursing assistant. She’d gone for a urine test at Quest Monday afternoon, and they told her they were already shutting down the computer and were closing,” Sam Martello said of his wife. “She was upset about not getting the job and told me she was going out to get a drink.”
A neighbor in the duplex’s adjoining residence said that Jennifer Martello recently told her she was seeking a job at a nursing home.
A ruling on Martello’s cause of death will be made once the autopsy is conducted. Police hoped that would happen either late Wednesday or Thursday, but they were not certain because of the time it takes in the organ donation process.
Another element also needs to be addressed – the examination of evidence that was gathered from the section of road where Martello was found. Erie County Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory technicians are reviewing those items.
“Indications are that a vehicle was involved, but we can’t be 100 percent certain until we have the results of the autopsy and other tests,” Hamburg Detective Scott Kashino said. “We’re in a holding pattern and in the meantime doing other work on the case.”
He urged anyone who might have information about the incident along the 3600 block of Big Tree Road to contact police.
“Even if they are not sure of the significance, let us make that determination,” Kashino said, adding police can be reached at 648-5111, Ext. 2502.
Police believe Martello was walking eastbound, facing traffic on the north side of the unlit, narrow two-lane road near the intersection of Richcrest Drive and just past Eaglecrest Mobile Home Park when she was apparently hit by a vehicle. The scene was about 200 yards from the home she shared with her 34-year-old husband and their 14-month-old daughter, Amelia.
Some 2 miles farther east is a tavern at the intersection of South Park Avenue and Southwestern Boulevard.
The husband said his wife was the victim of a driver who did not stop.
“If you are driving and hit someone and drive away, to me it’s murder,” he said. “If you pull over and call 911, that’s a different story.”
Sam Martello said he has been keeping his wife’s friends up to date on what has happened by way of her Facebook page, explaining that she had many friends on the social media site.
“I want to honor her,” he said, adding that he wanted the media to be alerted to the tragedy as well.
As neighbors along Big Tree Road awaited more details Wednesday, they pointed out that cars often speed by and at night the situation can be hazardous for pedestrians.
“It’s pitch black out there, and I would not go out there,” said neighbor Danielle Sawyer. “I’ve lived here nine years, and there’s been a ton of car accidents with people driving out of the nearby trailer parks onto Big Tree Road. Jennifer was a tiny little lady, and if she was wearing dark clothing, she could have been invisible to cars that race along here.”
The Martellos had moved in a few months ago, and Sawyer recalled Sam Martello stopping by to introduce himself.
“Sam was holding his little baby girl, and she was so sweet,” Sawyer said. “He told us that he and Jennifer had been in a horrible auto accident and were recovering from their injuries.”
On other occasions, Sawyer said, she would see Jennifer Martello playing with her daughter in the backyard.
Sam Martello, a recent accounting graduate from an area college, said he is struggling to cope with the loss.
“I’ve gotten like two hours of sleep and now have to plan the funeral arrangements,” he said.