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Martens family lawsuit blames APD for granddaughter’s brutal death

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The maternal grandparents of Victoria Martens, who was viciously raped, dismembered and set on fire last year, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque and some of its police officers who failed to investigate child abuse reports prior to her August 2016 death.


John and Pat Martens, the parents of Michelle Martens, sit in the court room of Judge Charles W. Brown after the scheduling of trial dates with attorneys in October 2016. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by attorneys Bob Gorence and Jason Bowles, seeks policy change at the Albuquerque Police Department and compensation for grandparents John and Pat Martens, the parents of Michelle Martens, who is now in jail awaiting trial in the death of her 10-year-old daughter, Victoria.

Also in jail awaiting trial is Michelle’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales and his cousin Jessica Kelley.


Victoria Martens, 10 (Courtesy of the Martens family)

APD arrested them after finding Victoria’s body smoldering in Michelle’s apartment bathtub. They say the trio, fueled by drugs, raped the girl and it wasn’t the first time Michelle solicited or participated in abusing her child.

Five months prior to Victoria’s death, a report was filed with the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department that a man, one of Michelle’s boyfriends, had tried to kiss the girl.

But police never investigated that report, though later two department spokespeople would attempt to convince the public that they had investigated.

The lawsuit says that this failure to investigate was negligence that contributed to Victoria’s death. It also highlights that the department lacks a policy about which CYFD referrals are investigated and how they are investigated.

“At all times relevant to this Complaint, the City had in effect policies, practices and customs that condoned and fostered the unlawful conduct of the APD Individual Defendants, and were a direct and proximate cause of Victoria Martens'” suffering, injuries and death, the lawsuit says.

A city spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that the city has not been officially served with the suit and so had not comment on it.

The lawsuit seeks these policy changes:

■ Requiring a review and response by an officer within 24 hours of any CYFD referral followed by a supervisor review within another 24 hours with a plan of action, if necessary, communicated to the chief within one week of implementing the plan.

■ Holding annual training on crimes against children

■ Creating of a “tracking system of CYFD referrals so that no referral involving a child falls through the cracks.”

The lawsuit, filed in 2nd District Court in Albuquerque, also seeks compensation for the Martens, including for the loss of their granddaughter and punitive damages.