Monday March 8, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- Jahda Martin, 26, of 26 Hamlin St., a former star athlete at Lee High School, was identified by police late Saturday night as the victim of a stabbing in the parking lot of a local fast-food establishment.

According to the district attorney's office, police responded to several 911 calls at about 1:40 a.m. on Saturday morning. Callers reported that a man had been stabbed, and was lying in the parking lot of the Burger King Restaurant on Wendell Avenue Extension. Police did not detail where Martin had been stabbed.

Martin was transported to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment, where he died later that evening.

An autopsy to determine the cause of death will be conducted at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Holyoke. The date and time of the autopsy have yet to be determined.

The parking lot, a large, fenced-in area, is across the street from the nearby Club Groove, a popular local late-night bar. Police said Martin had left the club before the incident occurred. A witness reported that Martin was involved in an altercation with at least one other individual before the stabbing. According to the witness, who asked not to be identified, Martin did not appear to be armed.

Martin, according to Eagle files, was a 2002 graduate of Lee High School, where he was an All-Eagle selection in basketball his senior year. Martin averaged 17.8 points per game as a senior forward-center, and helped the Wildcats to the Western Mass.


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Division III Finals, where Lee was beaten by Frontier.

In his senior year, Martin was named MVP of the Berkshire County All-star basketball game, played at the Boys' and Girls' Club.

The 6-foot-5 Martin won the Forfa Family Scholarship upon graduation, and eventually attended Long Island University. He was a walk-on for the basketball team, and was declared "one of the more gifted walk-ons we've ever had here," by LIU coach James Ferry in an interview with The Eagle.

Martin's early life was a difficult one. Born in New York City, Martin became a ward of the state as a preteen. At age 14, he was assigned to live at the Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth in Canaan, N.Y.

He transferred to Lee High School as a junior.

Martin eventually left Long Island University after almost two years there, and returned to the Berkshire area. He returned to Berkshire Farm, where he was hired as a counselor. He later took a job with the state Department of Mental Retardation.

Martin also continued playing basketball in local amateur leagues.

But finances were tight, according to his attorney, Marc Vincellete, in a 2007 Eagle interview, and Martin began selling cocaine on the side to make ends meet.

By 2007, he had quit his job and began selling drugs full-time, according to Eagle files. He was arrested, and in December of that year, Martin was found guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and sent to jail.

Authorities reported that he cooperated with the investigation, and was amenable to resolving his case quickly. Martin was also adamant that his long-time girlfriend, who had also been under indictment, was not involved in his drug-selling.

Despite his childhood circumstances, Martin had had no previous criminal issues before that arrest.

The investigation is being conducted by members of the Pittsfield Police Department, state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's office, state police from the Crime Scene Services Section and members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Pittsfield Police at (413) 448-9700.