Rosa Martinez was known to her friends as “Arlie.” Little notes to Arlie are scattered throughout George Washington Middle School — on walls and on desks.
“Rest in peace, Arlie,” they say.
“She was my friend and I can’t believe that I won’t ever see her again,” one sixth grade girl said. “I miss her.”
Martinez, 14, died March 31, and her funeral was held April 8. Jose Rubin Benites has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Martinez, who was passenger in a car he was driving last month.
Martinez and at least two other minors, one a student at GW and the other a student who attends the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center, were in a car that Benites was driving near S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike in Arlington on March 16.
Police say that Benites lost control of the car around 2:15 a.m. Martinez was thrown from the car. She was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital where she lay in a coma for 17 days, before she died on March 31.
The teenagers were riding in Benites’ car without the permission of their parents. “It’s very difficult for parents,” said Jill Lingle, the School Resource Officer at GW. Lingle knew Martinez well.
“They must use tough love to keep these young people from going out in cars with adults who the parents don’t approve of,” she said. “The message from all of us has to be consistent: if you make bad decisions, there are consequences. These consequences were tragic.”
BENITES, A 29-YEAR-OLD ALEXANDRIA resident, fled the scene at the time of the accident. He was originally charged with hit-and-run, but charges were upgraded to involuntary manslaughter after Martinez died. Benites turned himself in to Arlington police some time last week. Police reports indicate that alcohol was a factor in the accident.
Lingle is pleased that Arlington’s Commonwealth’s Attorney has upgraded the charges against Benites. “Again, it’s about consistency,” she said. “The kids need to see that he is going to face the consequences of his bad decisions, too.”
Lingle said that counselors and social workers have been available at the school to help students grieve the loss of their friend.
“It’s been almost a month since the accident and the funeral was just held on Monday,” she said. “The kids will always miss their friend. But now we can begin to help them bring some closure to this.”