Killer of New Orleans tourist avoids possible life sentence with plea deal for manslaughter

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 7:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A man who brutally beat to death a 73-year-old Missouri tourist last December inside a St. Charles Avenue hotel room has been spared a potential life sentence for the crime.

Martin Hurtado on Monday (Sept. 11) averted his scheduled murder trial by accepting an offer from the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office to plead guilty to manslaughter in the killing of David Sorenson last Dec. 1.

A statement from the DA’s office said Hurtado’s plea “resulted in a substantial 40-year prison sentence,” which would be the maximum punishment for manslaughter. However, online court records said nothing of an agreed-upon sentence and said only that Criminal District Court Judge Marcus Delarge would impose a sentence on Oct. 6.

New Orleans police detectives said Sorenson and his wife were visiting the city last December and staying at the Avenue Plaza hotel on St. Charles Avenue, when they were awakened around 11 p.m. by a fire alarm pulled inside the building.

The victim’s wife told police a man later identified as Hurtado knocked on the door of their sixth-floor room. When she opened it, she told police Hurtado pushed her into the room and followed her inside.

“I’m not here. Don’t tell anyone I’m here,” she told police the intruder said.

Fearing for her safety, the woman said she ran toward the bathroom as she saw the man start punching her husband in the face. She eventually ran out of the room to get help.

NOPD homicide division Capt. Ryan Lubrano said at a press conference last year that officers arrived to find Hurtado still inside the room, with Sorenson gravely injured from a beating to his face and head. Lubrano said Hurtado was arrested with his right hand swollen, and with cuts and blood around his face and nose.

Sorenson died at a hospital before midnight, with the Orleans Parish coroner later citing blunt-force trauma as the cause.

Detectives who interviewed Hurtado said he told them all he could remember was drinking at Tacos & Beer -- the restaurant where he worked just down the street from the victim’s hotel -- around 6 p.m. He told police he didn’t remember anything after that.

In a statement, District Attorney Jason Williams said that “as we grieve the tragic loss of an innocent visitor in Uptown New Orleans,” he was satisfied not prosecuting the murder charge.

“This resolution not only resulted in a substantial 40-year prison sentence, it removed the risk of an extremely emotional and stressful trial process for the family of Mr. Sorenson,” Williams said. “The family was consulted throughout the entire process and obtaining a conviction with a sentence of 40 years was a decision made with their blessing.”

Wednesday’s plea deal was at least the second offered by Williams’ office on a prominent murder case in the past two weeks.

On Aug. 28, the office also allowed 20-year-old Tyrese Carter to plead out to manslaughter for the shooting death of former Edna Karr High School baseball teammate Keyron Ross.

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