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The former partner of the Phoenix mother who died after being thrown from a stolen minivan during his botched kidnapping of their boy this week then mowed her down on a sidewalk before escaping the scene, police said.
Brittany Walker-Martie, 30, died in a hospital after being ejected from the van, which was allegedly being hijacked by Eric Maes, the child’s non-custodial father. Investigators said that Maes, 30, told them that after she was tossed from the vehicle, he flipped around and mowed her down while she stood on the sidewalk. His charges have been upgraded from manslaughter to first-degree murder.
On Feb. 9, police responded to a domestic violence incident at a home in Peoria, Arizona. Bystanders told investigators Walker-Martie was seen hanging off the Chrysler minivan as it sped away with Abel, her 10-month-old infant, inside.
“A male jumped into the driver’s seat of her car and started driving away, with the child still in the vehicle,” Peoria Police Department said. “Witnesses observed Brittany grab onto the car as it was driving away. She was thrown from the car as it sped away from the scene.”
An Amber Alert was issued for the missing infant, and detectives were able to speak with Walker-Martie at the hospital before she died.
“They were able to get her name and some very critical information that we needed,” Sergeant Amanda Gaines of the Peoria Police Department told reporters on Thursday.
Hours after the deadly incident, the missing child turned up on the doorstep of a Phoenix home several miles away, AZCentral reported. Police received reports of an abandoned child around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Abel was reportedly clothed and in good health. The van was also later found deserted less than half a mile away, they said.
Maes was arrested in Phoenix after a “short foot pursuit” with police on Wednesday. A bystander recognized Maes and phoned 911, police said. He allegedly later confessed to intentionally striking Walker-Martie with the stolen van, police said.
Maes also admitted to struggling with Walker-Martie inside the moving van, according to a probable cause statement, the Associated Press reported. The minivan had allegedly been hijacked at a nearby residence where Maes’ sister was babysitting Abel, detectives said.
Maes was charged with first-degree murder, theft by means of transportation, kidnapping, and endangerment. He was originally booked on manslaughter charges, but those have since been upgraded to murder after he was questioned by police.
A vigil was held for the Arizona mother of two on Wednesday afternoon.
"I love her so much!” Prudence, her 11-year-old daughter, told friends and family who attended, according to KTVK. "She was my mommy. She was always there for us."
Walker-Martie’s friends described her as a loving mother.
"She died trying to save little Abel," her best friend, Heather Giard, told KTVK.
“That baby was her life,” her sister-in-law Lindsey Walker added. “She doted on that kid.”
Maes is from Sun City, Arizona. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal representation or entered a plea. He is being held at a Maricopa County detention center.
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