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'We won’t ever have Jesse back' | Family of man shot under Eastex Freeway in 2019 say guilty verdict, sentence will never be enough

The family of Jesse Rodriguez said they plan to honor his life and legacy.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The family of a man who was killed after a 2019 shooting are happy the person accused of the murder will spend years in prison, but feel it will never be enough.

Martin Pettway was sentenced to 46 years in prison on Friday for the 2019 shooting death of Jesse Rodriguez.  Family of Jesse Rodriguez expressed their gratitude at the guilty verdict, but said it does not bring their loved one back. 

“While we are thankful for the verdict and, you know, for the trial to have gone and ended with guilty and the years he did get, it still will never be enough,” Kassandra Castillo, Rodriguez’s sister, said. “We won’t ever have Jesse back.”

Castillo feels Pettway not only took Rodriguez from his family, but also stole the opportunity for other people to get to meet her brother.

“I really wish so many more people would have gotten to meet him [Rodriguez],” Castillo said. “It was evident when everything initially happened, how loved he was and how known he was. I just really feel like if he had not been taken from us so early, he would have gone to been alot more in life.”

After the verdict and sentencing, the family said they feel safer.

“We feel like everyone is safer without him being out,” Kassandra said.

Castillo said her family will always miss Rodriguez and visit his grave often.

Credit: Paola Joanna E. Lopez

“We are always going to miss Jesse,” Castillo said. “So, we obviously continue to you know meet him and gather for him for his birthday which will be coming up next month [July]. We will still commemorate his Angel Day, which is when he got his wings.”

The family plans to honor Rodriguez’s life and legacy. Among other things, the family is hoping to name the soccer court on 4th Street after Rodriguez.

“We do plan to hopefully make some kind of organization or profit from this,” Rodriguez said. “We are kind of thinking about that, but COVID did delay a lot of it. We hope to do something in memory of him.”

Castillo said the family is still hurting.

“For my mom personally, nothing will ever be enough, because she does want her baby back understandably. She wants her son back,” Castillo said. “I’m sure she’s also glad that we did get the verdict that we received, but she is still processing a lot of emotions and so are my brothers. My brothers have to process a lot of trauma aside from the emotions of that day.

Related: Port Arthur man sentenced to 46 years for 2019 shooting death of Jesse Rodriguez

The deadly shooting happened after what police called a "disturbance" inside Cici’s Pizza located in the 5800 block of Eastex Freeway on Saturday, August 17, 2019.  

Pettway and Rodriguez "interacted" inside the restaurant. Police said calling the disturbance an altercation "would be a stretch,"  

Rodriguez left the restaurant and was followed by Pettway and the three other suspects. Witnesses at the scene told police the four suspects were seen getting into a black Ford Fusion. 

Rodriguez was shot in the head  while stopped at a traffic light under the Eastex Freeway overpass at Dowlen Road near Parkdale Mall. He later died in the hospital. 

Pettway was arrested two days after the shooting took place thanks to a Crime Stoppers tip.

Credit: Beaumont Police Department
Martin Vincent Pettway, 21, of Port Arthur

Pettway was found guilty of murder on Friday, June 10, 2022. The jury began deliberating at about 10 a.m. Thursday and returned a verdict just after 9 a.m. the next day. 

Rodriguez's loved ones spoke during the family impact statement. They asked Pettway's decision to plead not guilty made them relive the pain of losing Rodriguez all over again. 

"Martin Pettway, how dare you," Rodriguez's family said. "You had the audacity to plead not guilty? To put my family through everything all over again, to re-live that nightmare!"

Loved ones of Rodriguez said Pettway's actions in 2019 put more than just Rodriguez in danger. 

“Your lack of remorse, and your public disregard for other innocent bystanders who were on the road that day tell me that you are a threat to our society," Rodriguez's family said. 

Rodriguez's family said they are happy with the verdict.

“I’m glad that you are serving time, that you were found guilty, because you did believe that you were God when you took the innocent life of somebody," Rodriguez's family said.

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