Story with a twist: Man sentenced to serve 50 years to life in 2015 Drynk murder

Joel Martin will serve consecutive sentences for the murder and assaults.

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Joel Martin

MANCHESTER, NH Convicted murderer Joel Martin, 28,  was sentenced June 28 in Hillsborough County Superior Court in connection with the 2015 murder by stabbing of Darrell Robinson, as well as assaults of two other men, also with a knife, on the same night.

The murder and assaults occurred on May 9, 2015, at Drynk, a night club formerly located on Old Granite Street.

An accounting of the incident released by the Attorney General’s office hours after the crime can be viewed here.

Not long after the 2015 incident unfolded, Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard realized it was not the first time he’d laid eyes on Joel Martin.

“Officer Rick Charbonneau and I were the very first community policing officers on the Manchester Police force back in the early ’90s. I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but Cissy Taylor, a reporter for the Union Leader at the time, wanted to do a profile on us – I believe President Clinton was coming to the city, because we were on the forefront of community policing back then.”

A copy of a photograph from 1994 of rookie cop Nick Willard, with Joel Martin, then 5. Martin was sentenced on June 28 to serve 50 years-to-life in prison. Courtesy Photo/Chief Nick Willard

One of the images the photographer captured that day featured Willard interacting with Joel Martin, who was 5 at the time. In a copy of the original photo provided by Willard, Joel Martin is pictured smiling broadly, wearing Willard’s police hat.

It is unfortunate that the story does not have a happier ending for Martin, says Willard.

But in a way, the photograph serves as a reminder to Willard – and all police officers – that there is no clear formula for success when it comes to a child’s life.

“You can never predict a child’s future, that’s true. But we need to continue to do the outreach we do, and show our children that we value them. In that photo, that’s what we were trying to do. What happens after a point of contact, for the most part, is out of our control,” Willard says. “And we’ve had many success stories over the years. Kids who’ve grown up and, as men, tell us they were positively affected by what we did as police officers – some have even chosen careers in law enforcement.”

Willard mentions two young men who have come through the Manchester Police Athletic League. Both recently joined the military.

“It’s our hope that they will come back as officers,” Willard says. “In the one instance, we weren’t able to touch a young man’s heart and change the course of his life. But we have two others who have gone down a very different path.”

Willard said during his early years as a rookie cop he also coached basketball at the Salvation Army, and knows that at least three or four of the kids who came through the program are now in prison, some for serious crimes.

“We hope we’re making a difference out there. It’s extremely important for law enforcement officers to strive for that connectivity with kids in the community. And although it doesn’t always bear the fruit you hope it does, it’s important that we continue to try,” Willard says.

Although he did not have a lot of deep background on Joel Martin’s criminal history, or what his life was like between the time he flashed an eager smile from underneath Willard’s hat back in 1994, to the fateful night of the murder, he knows that justice has been served.

“I do recall the incident at Drynk, and how reckless and unnecessary it was. If memory serves, the whole thing happened over a spilled drink, or some other such incident, which led to a murder and two assaults,” Willard says. “The proper sentence was obviously given, considering the future threat to the community of the accused.”

He says the sentencing sends a message to others that Manchester is not going to tolerate violent behavior.

“I also recall the outstanding police work done that night, from the responding officers to the detectives who followed up. I’m really proud of all the officers who worked on that case,” Willard says.

According to Assistant Attorney General John Kennedy, Martin was sentenced to serve 40 years to life on the murder conviction, plus restitution; a consecutive prison term of 10 to 30 years plus restitution on one of his two convictions for second-degree assault; and another 10 to 30 years on the second conviction for second-degree assault. He was also sentenced to a concurrent prison sentence of 5 to 10 years on his conviction for being a felon in possession of a weapon, which results in a sentence of 50 years to life.

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!