Know Your Neighbor: Roberto J. Martinez
Not everything one sees on television occurs as simply in real life as an hourlong time slot allows. Shows such as CSI and NCIS solve cases quite easily while at-home audiences have time to eat a bowl of popcorn. However, in real life, the process of solving someone’s cause of death is much slower. During a recent interview, Los Cordovas resident Roberto J. Martinez shared his work at the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque.
“I’m the recipient of Daniel’s Fund, an organization that offers scholarships to college students,” Martinez said recently of how he first went to work for the medical investigator in Albuquerque. “As part of this process, I’m required to work a certain number of hours. I heard of an opening in the Office of the Medical Investigator, and I applied. I was fortunate enough to begin my job the last week of February this year.
“Originally, I was hired as a dry tech, but because of a staff shortage, I also became a wet tech. These designations determine how a tech works on the body,” said Martinez, a criminal justice student at the University of New Mexico.
The workday begins early with an 8 a.m. meeting to discuss the cases of the day. Techs remove a body from the refrigerator, take a computerized tomography, or CT scan, of it and prepare it for an autopsy. They identify and document each case, including clothing and jewelry. Then, the laborious task to examine a body begins.
Because this office remains the only one in New Mexico, it serves communities throughout the state deals with a high volume of cases. Martinez estimates an average of 20 bodies are processed at the lab in one the day. According to Martinez, the new lab facility is one of the best in the country, with officials from other states and Canada visiting and observing the New Mexico OMI. “It’s awesome to work there,” he said.
Martinez added that staff “offer an extra hand when it’s needed. Sometimes, we see something in the news, and it’s a case we worked on firsthand, so it feels kind of cool.”
Martinez is not allowed under his scholarship to work in the OMI more than 28 hours a week, thus enabling him to maintain his grades and avoid high stress. Martinez credits his boss for a high degree of understanding.
Martinez grew up at the family home in Los Cordovas. His parents, Francisco Leroy Martinez and Pam Trujillo Martinez, taught their children the value of hard work and education. Roberto Martinez’s eldest sister Victoria and her husband Ivan Villareal raise their sons, Joaquin and Tiago, in Albuquerque. The second-born sibling, Amogene and her husband Craig Williams raise daughter Lara-Belle in Albuquerque and await the birth of a new baby in a few months. Older brother Francisco (Kiko) Martinez attends the University of New Mexico and works at the Zimmerman Library.
Roberto, along with his brother Kiko, belonged to the Taos High Mariachi and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Spanish Choir in Taos. In high school, Roberto Martinez participated in athletics, science-related activities and robotics. The family owns chickens, dogs, and sometimes cows, pigs and lambs. “There’s nothing like Taos. It’s a clean, quiet place,” said Martinez.
His job and college schedule gives him the flexibility to see his family. His parents live two and a half hours away, close enough to see him often. When he visits his sisters and brothers-in-law, he enjoys “playing uncle.” Francisco lives “a few buildings away,” from Roberto and the close siblings see each other often.
Roberto Martinez accumulated dual credit courses in Taos High School, helping him qualify as a second-semester junior after only a year in the university. “The high school offers a lot to get us through. Students should take advantage of these opportunities,” said Martinez.
Because of the heavier academic load at college, Martinez recently dropped some of his activities. He changed his mechanical engineering major in favor of criminal justice. Still, he has plenty of interests and activities outside of his courses and his job.
As an Arabic language minor, Roberto belongs to the Arabic Club and also studies Spanish and Russian and hopes to use the languages for a useful career. He plays the guitarron for Mariachi Universidad de Nuevo Mejico.
Another affiliation includes SEP, a college enrichment program. As an individual and whenever possible, Martinez volunteers with organizations, such as cleaning ditches at the Ronald McDonald House. He attends both Democrat and Republican meetings to listen to speakers and does not claim affiliation with either group. Martinez has considered joining the Beekeeping Club and the UNM Mountaineering Club because he’s afraid of heights and thinks that mountain climbing might help him face his fears.
The OMI tech cited some of his philosophy about education during a recent interview. “Extracurricular (activity) is important,” he said. “Everyone is not the same person. Students should take advantage of what Taos has to offer... I’d like to contribute myself, to make the Taos area and New Mexico a better place.”
Roberto J. Martinez