Tales from Wasilla: Reagan Martz

Reagan Martz is in jail on $50,000 bail. He is charged with killing one person and injuring two others. He is alleged to have been drunk, seriously drunk, while operating a boat on Flat Lake near Big Lake. He struck three women on a float tube.

There were plenty of signs that this could happen. He’s just 26 years old, but he already had nine criminal cases, two of them for minor consuming alcohol. The first when he was just sixteen years old. Call that a bad sign. The second when he was 18 years old. When a juvenile is caught drinking twice it’s a strong suggestion of a serious problem with alcohol. And that’s not even considering the other 7 traffic violations he accumulated in just ten years.

And now Martz’s drinking problem has left Jennifer Horazdovsky dead, another woman in critical condition and a third woman with a broken collar bone.

Martz tried to run away after his boat struck Jennifer Horazdovsky. He was sober enough to know exactly what he had done. He refused to talk when captured, and initially refused a breath test for alcohol. So he was sober enough to remember his lawyer’s advice from his last nine criminal cases. He just wasn’t sober enough to operate a motor vehicle.

You can’t help but think that Alaska’s criminal justice failed abjectly here. Martz was drunk – three hours after the accident he tested for .163 blood alcohol – and at the helm of a boat moving at high speed. He had six passengers on board and could just as easily have killed or injured them.

What might the State of Alaska have done that would have let Jennifer Horazdovsky live?

Treating minors with repeat alcohol-related criminal charges more seriously might be a start. Something more than a fine and community service. Maybe screening for alcohol abuse? Maybe ongoing monitoring?

But that would cost money, and Alaska has traditionally done a lousy job at mental health. And like it or not, alcohol abuse is an aspect of mental health.

There are lots of other young problem drinkers in Alaska. Some of them are driving autos and boats as you read this. Before too long, one of them is going to kill another innocent Alaskan. We know who some of those alcohol offenders are. Martz is hardly the only minor caught consuming alcohol. Nor the only repeat offender.

But the Alaska Legislature’s priorities apparently don’t extend to prevention. And so Jennifer Horazdovsky is dead. She won’t be the last victim of drunk driving.

Andrew Horazdovsky, the widower of Jennifer Horazdovsky, told the Alaska Sate Troopers, “They didn’t even stop.” Let that stand for the Alaska Legislature, too.

WC’s thoughts and sympathies go to Jennifer Horazdovsky’s family.