Neighbors angry about driver's actions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
Bessie Hill was walking beside her 4-year-old grandson as he rode his bike along Mitchell Avenue in Fulton Heights when she heard an engine roaring behind her about 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning.
Hill said she turned and pushed her grandson and his bike out of the way as a car sped past them, and then barrelled through a hedge and several headstones in Chestnut Hill Cemetery after running a stop sign on Fulton Street.
“There are other little kids in this neighborhood,” Hill said. “I could have lost my little grandson.”
Hill is one of several neighbors who are angry after a Salisbury man, Stephen Asbury Martin, 62, was charged with driving while intoxicated and possession of an open alcohol container.
“It’s very scary to me,” Hill said. “It was like a nightmare. I’m scared to take (my grandson) out anymore.”
Martin, of 629 Wiley Ave., was released on a written promise. He is scheduled for court on Oct. 7.
Salisbury Police said they have not received Martin’s official toxicology report and would not release the preliminary blood alcohol level taken at the scene.
According to the arrest report, Martin had a “very strong odor of alcohol,” “slurred speech” and “couldn’t walk by himself.”
Neighbor Jon Palmer and his wife, Shelley, were remodeling their new house Sunday morning when they saw the vehicle plunge into the cemetery, knocking headstones as far as 40 feet.
Shelley Palmer said her husband was the first on the scene and she saw the man in the passenger seat. He did not have a seat belt on.
Jon Palmer told his wife the man was struggling to get back into the driver’s seat and tried to start the vehicle several times.
Jon Palmer took the driver’s keys, and he said Martin was trying to hide two liquor bottles in the back seat.
According to Jon Palmer, Martin had an empty fifth of vodka and an almost empty half-gallon bottle of vodka. Jon Palmer and Hill estimated the car was traveling at nearly 100 miles an hour. The posted speed limit on Mitchell Avenue is 25.
Several neighbors told the Post that Martin has been seen drinking and driving around the neighborhood. Martin, the former transit division manager, worked for the city of Salisbury for more than 25 years.
A woman who answered Martin’s phone said he did not want to comment.
Bobby Gaulden of Salisbury Marble and Granite assessed the damage Tuesday afternoon and said the initial estimate of $5,000 in damages was “a little low.”
Gaulden said some of the headstones had simply been knocked over, but others will have to be replaced.
“That one is North Carolina marble,” Gaulden said, pointing at a nearby headstone. “They don’t even quarry that anymore.”
Gaulden said the headstones nearest the road had been hit so hard by the vehicle that they were pushed into other headstones, damaging some as far as 20 feet away.
Shelley Palmer said she still wants to raise her children in Fulton Heights, but she said she’s concerned.
“It’s the neighborhood we want to live in and raise our kids,” Palmer said. “Now that we’re aware of it, we’re on the lookout.”