Connecticut man gets 90 years in prison for stray-bullet killing of Olympian's mom

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man was sentenced Wednesday to 90 years in prison for his role in the stray-bullet killing of the mother of a two-time Olympian rifle shooter from Puerto Rico.

Judge Brian Preleski handed down the sentence to Franklin Robinson, 40, one of three men charged in the death of Mabel Martinez Antongiorgi, 56. The woman was sewing in her home in Waterbury, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Hartford, when a bullet flew through a wall and hit her in the head on April 9, 2022.

Martinez Antongiorgi’s daughter, Yarimar Mercado Martinez, competed for the family’s native Puerto Rico at the 2016 and pandemic-delayed 2020 Games. The athlete was in Brazil for another competition when her mother was killed.

A jury convicted Robinson of murder and other charges in July. The two other men are awaiting trial.

Donald Meehan, Robinson's public defender, decried the sentence as a “severe trial tax,” levied on his client because he did not accept a plea offer that would have led to a sentence of 40 years.

“As happens with all defendants, including innocent defendants, the offer was an effort to entice him to plead guilty and give up his rights to a fair trial and to confront the witnesses against him and, as always, comes with the built-in threat of potentially receiving a sentence like Robinson received today if found guilty after a trial,” Meehan wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

According to trial testimony, a jealous Robinson was gunning for a man who had said hello to Robinson’s girlfriend on another day. After quarreling with the man and some of his friends, Robinson lined up a couple of people he knew to help him go after the man.

The three shot up a car parked on Martinez Antongiorgi’s street, thinking the man was inside it, according to trial testimony. Another bystander was wounded but survived.

Robinson didn’t fire the fatal bullet, but because of his alleged role, he was charged with murder under Connecticut law. Prosecutors portrayed him as leading a deadly scheme by targeting the intended victim and recruiting help.

At the time of her mother’s death, Mercado Martinez lamented in social media posts that she “couldn’t even say goodbye.”

“Why you? Why this way?" she wrote. “You were just sitting in your little house sewing, as you always did.”

Martinez Antongiorgi and her husband of over 30 years, John Luis Mercado, moved to Waterbury from Puerto Rico a few years after the U.S. territory endured 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. At the time of her death, they had set a date to renew their wedding vows, their daughter wrote at the time.