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East Texas woman accused of abandoning infant following crash on I-20, 2nd infant found alone in house

“It could have been much worse,” Harrison County Sheriff B.J. Fletcher said, noting that both babies are now safe in Child Protective Services custody.

HARRISON COUNTY, Texas — First responders searched tirelessly Tuesday night to rescue abandoned twin infants who officials say were left alone by their mother who crashed her vehicle while intoxicated on a dead-end road off Interstate 20 near Marshall. 

Officials said one baby was found inside the crashed vehicle, while the other was found alone in the woman's home after hours of combing through the woods. 

“It could have been much worse,” Harrison County Sheriff B.J. Fletcher said, noting that both babies are now safe in Child Protective Services custody.

Fantasia Martinez, 26, of Marshall, was booked into the Harrison County Jail, where she is charged with two counts of abandonment/endangerment of a child imminent danger/bodily injury, driving while intoxicated with a child passenger, escape and resisting arrest/transport.

Fletcher said someone called saying a woman, who was later identified as Martinez, was acting erratic and running into traffic in the eastbound lanes of I-20 at mile marker 619. She appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and possibly narcotics.

When deputies apprehended her, Martinez said she was driving her vehicle when it broke down and both of her kids were still in the car.

A deputy found the vehicle at the end of Buck Sherrod Road south of I-20 with the engine still running and an infant in the backseat, Fletcher said. The car came to a rest in front of a tree and a window had to be broken to get the child out.

Credit: Zak Wellerman
Credit: Zak Wellerman

Fletcher said Martinez escaped custody and a deputy had to divert attention from the baby to physically detain her. Once again in custody, she began talking about a second child, who officials realized was missing possibly in the woods.

“Obviously when you're looking for people, there's a heightened concern. But as any first responder or any person you know, will tell you when it's a child, it's different. Especially a 6-month-old child because they're helpless,” Fletcher said. “You know, if you don't find them, they're completely helpless. Our fear was that they were in the woods.”

Roughly 60 first responders, including the sheriff's office, Marshall Fire Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and local emergency service district representatives, were deployed to search for the child.

One of the deputies had to be treated for heat exhaustion at the scene.

“He just refused to quit,” Fletcher said, adding the deputy has since recovered.

Credit: Harrison County Sheriff's Office

Fletcher said they got in touch with Martinez’s mother, who lives in Florida, and she confirmed Martinez does have two babies. Investigators received an address that Martinez recently moved to and close to the search area.

Officials then went to Martinez’s home, where through the window an officer saw a car seat. No one appeared to be at the residence. After entering the home, the second baby was found in the car seat on a coffee table around midnight Wednesday, Fletcher said.

Both children were found to be uninjured. The babies had their diapers changed and were given to CPS.

Fletcher said the twins are in a safer environment now and he hopes Martinez will seek help to provide a better life for her children.

“But in the meantime, CPS will assure that they're taken care of and safe,” he said.

Fletcher added investigators are working to determine how long both babies were alone. Martinez could be facing further charges from DPS.

DPS will conduct a blood test to determine what substance caused Martinez's intoxication, Fletcher said. 

"Thank you to the deputies, DPS, ESDs, and Marshall Fire Department for their efforts in locating these children," Fletcher said. "It is heartbreaking to know that some children have to live in these conditions, but I am glad no lives were lost."

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