The decision to drop a vehicular homicide charge against a man accused of killing a Glynn Academy student as he rode a bicycle on U.S. 17 in January drew a range of emotions from friends and family members on Monday.

Keith Higgins, Glynn County assistant district attorney, told the court Monday that prosecutors decided to drop a first-degree vehicular homicide charge against Enrique Martinez-Vasquez, 25, of Brunswick because they did not think they had the evidence to get a conviction.

In exchange, Martinez-Vasquez agreed to plead guilty to one count of driving under the influence and one count of leaving the scene of an accident.

Glynn County Superior Court Judge James Tuten immediately sentenced Martinez-Vasquez to six years in prison -- the maximum allowed for both charges. He could have faced up to 15 years in prison if he had been tried for and convicted of first-degree vehicular homicide.

Mikeal "Butterbean" Hodges, 18, was pronounced dead at about 1:20 a.m. Jan. 21 at the Brunswick hospital of Southeast Georgia Health System, about an hour after he was struck while riding a bicycle on U.S. 17 near Westminster Apartments, 3901 U.S. 17 North.

Higgins said the state dropped the vehicular homicide charge because evidence indicated Hodges had been riding in the roadway and that toxicology tests showed he had marijuana in his system when the accident occurred.

Higgins said the bicycle Hodges was riding also had a label on it warning against riding it at night.

Based on the evidence, Higgins said it would be hard to convince a jury that Martinez-Vasquez's inebriation was the sole factor that caused the fatal accident.

"In order to obtain a conviction for homicide by vehicle in the first degree, the state would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that his condition caused the crash," said Higgins.

"Based upon my concerns as a prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience and having tried cases like this before and seen jurors acquit the accused under circumstances similar to this case, I recommend that the court accept the plea agreement."

In court Monday, family members and friends of Hodges filled the first two rows behind the prosecution.

His mother and stepfather, Angie and Kenneth Wilson, wore pink T-shirts with the youth's picture printed on them.

Before sentencing, Tuten gave close family members the opportunity to address Martinez-Vasquez and the court.

Kenneth Wilson stood-up, folded his arms and said, "I'd just like to say I forgive you," before bursting into tears.

After court, friends stood outside the courthouse and hugged one another.

Justin Youles, 17, who was riding with Hodges at the time of the fatal incident, said he doubted the prosecution's findings.

"I don't get how (the prosecution) can say he was in the road when he was in the grass. I should know because I was right behind him," said Youles. "They also said we were (high on marijuana), but we weren't."

Hodges' sister, Carrie, didn't like that the state dropped the vehicular homicide charge.

"I don't agree with it and none of it makes sense," she said. "It seems like they're blaming my brother for the accident."

"Even if my brother was in the road and (Martinez-Vasquez) saw him, he could have gotten in the other lane to avoid (Hodges), but he didn't see (Hodges) because he was so drunk."

The family gave Higgins a list of questions it wanted to ask Martinez-Vasquez.

The lawyer representing Martinez-Vasquez, Brunswick attorney James Yancey, said it was the first time in his 20 years of practice that he had ever heard of such a gesture.

The questions included, "Have you asked for forgiveness?" and "Have you learned anything?"

Tuten said the family could visit Martinez-Vasquez in jail to hear the answers face-to-face.

Police said after the accident that Martinez-Vasquez fled the scene and was stopped coincidentally minutes later by Georgia State Patrol Trooper 1st Class Marlon Groover because of a broken headlight on his vehicle.

During the traffic stop, Groover heard a police radio broadcast a vehicle description matching that of Martinez-Vasquez.

During the plea bargain hearing Monday, an interpreter explained the proceedings to Martinez-Vasquez, a legal Mexican immigrant.

Higgins explained to him in court that his guilty plea could result in his deportation after he serves his sentence.

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