Friends, family remember teen who died on New Year's Day


by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Posted on January 2, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 2 at 11:12 PM

AUSTIN -- Clinging to a photograph of her daughter, the mother of a teen whose death is a mystery is now looking for answers.

"She always used to text me. I miss her texting me. I keep waiting for the phone to go off, but it's not her," said Mary Ann Hernandez.

Thirteen-year-old Sophia Martinez was found dead outside of a home in the 2400 block of Lakehurst Drive around 11 a.m. Tuesday. Police are questioning neighbors, friends and witnesses and say her death is "suspicious."

On Wednesday Martinez' family members huddled together in a living room, hugging each other for support.

The teen attended Garcia Middle School. Her mother says she was celebrating New Year's Eve with another teenager, her best friend. The girls were supposed to spend the night with a cousin.

Sophia's cousin tells KVUE she left to go to the store and when she returned, Sophia and her friend were gone. The child's mother, Mary Ann Herrera, says Sophia was supposed to stay with her cousin and was not allowed to leave for another party.

'We don't know what happened. We don't know anything. We are wondering 'where were they? Why did this happen?'" Sophia's grandfather Fidel Herrera said.

Police say a black car carrying the two teen girls rode up to the home on Lakehurst Drive on New Year's Day.  Witnesses say Sophia Martinez wasn't breathing and her friend was knocking feverishly on doors, screaming for help before a neighbor called 911.

An officer arrived on the scene and began chest compressions. The teen was taken to Dell Children's Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. 

'We just want to know what happened,' said Herrera "She was a sweet girl, a good kid. She wrote down all her goals for the new year. She planned to bring up her grades in school and attend class every day. She had dreams of becoming a teacher and helping people. She loved to help me at home with her brothers and sisters. I miss her."

The cause of Sophia's death is still under investigation. Investigators say she did not have any visible signs of trauma. An autopsy has been ordered.

The family is opening a bank account under the name "Sophia Martinez" for funeral expenses. A candlelight vigil is planned for Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the scene on Lakehurst Drive. Friends and loved ones are welcome to join.

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