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Was a 4th person at scene of Victoria’s murder?

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

FBI agents recently went to extraordinary lengths to obtain the DNA of a suspected meth dealer in “connection with an August 2016 homicide” – part of a renewed focus by investigators on whether a fourth adult was present around the time 10-year-old Victoria Martens was murdered in her mother’s West Side apartment.

Victoria Martens

Federal and state prosecutors and investigators have been keeping a tight lid on the latest chapter in the investigation and wouldn’t comment, but court and police records show the FBI set up an undercover narcotics investigation six weeks ago with the goal of getting additional evidence in the child’s murder case.

In addition to trying to determine whether another adult – in addition to the three already charged – was present, investigators also want to know what role methamphetamine might have played in the child’s horrific death and dismemberment.

The girl’s mother, Michelle Martens, her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales and his cousin Jessica Kelley have all been charged with rape and first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty. The charges allege Kelley and Gonzales killed the girl while her mother watched.

The possibility of someone else being in the Martens’ apartment that day was first raised when Jessica Kelley was arrested by police the day after the murder while she was at the hospital. She had suffered a broken ankle when jumping off the apartment balcony as police arrived.

Kelley, who had been in and out of prison, refused to talk to police and asked for an attorney. But while being cuffed she asked, “Why am I being arrested for murder? There were three other people in that house. You’re getting me for murder?”

Despite that comment, the possibility of an additional person being present around the time of Victoria’s death took on new importance recently based on information gleaned from the suspects’ cellphones.

Eye on meth dealer

While investigators won’t discuss the case, police and court records provide new details.

In September, FBI agents and an undercover informant were looking at Martin Martinez, 40, a methamphetamine dealer Jessica Kelley visited in the days before Victoria’s murder.

His telephone number was saved in her phone.

For several months, the FBI has been helping APD obtain information from the cellular phones found at the scene.

FBI agents also reviewed transcripts of APD interviews from the homicide investigation, in which a person identified only as Subject 1 said he went with Subject 2 to Martin Martinez’s house to pick up methamphetamine, and that Subject 2 used methamphetamine while they were there.

Subject 1 would appear to be Fabian Gonzales, and Subject 2 would appear to be Jessica Kelley. It is unclear when this visit occurred.

Methamphetamine has been a key investigative point in the Martens murder case from the time detectives arrived at the crime scene. At one point, Michelle Martens told police her daughter had gone to bed sick after ingesting meth. Autopsy results showed no methamphetamine in the girl’s system.

In an interview hours after police responded to the crime scene, Fabian Gonzales told them that Jessica Kelley was using methamphetamine when he and Michelle Martens “picked her up from Martin’s” on the day of the murder.

He also told police that family members referred to their cousin Jessica Kelley as “Sister Crystal” – a reference to methamphetamine, and warned him about letting her stay at the apartment.

The agents, it turned out, had an informant who said he knew Martinez, and told them Martinez sold methamphetamine and acquired stolen vehicles to sell the parts for extra money. The FBI’s informant, who has a long history of criminal convictions and is cooperating for possible consideration of a lesser prison sentence, made contact with Martinez and within a week Martinez had agreed to sell the informant a pound of methamphetamine for $5,000.

Martinez, according to court records, said he could get methamphetamine “all day, every day.”

During the discussion, Martinez showed the informant a stolen Chevrolet Tahoe in his yard that Martinez was “parting out” – or breaking down into parts to sell.

Capturing DNA

Records show that on Sept. 28, 2017, Martinez and the informant met at Martinez’s business on Fourth Street NW, a former used hubcap store, where the informant delivered the $5,000 cash provided by the FBI.

While the two waited for the delivery of the drugs, the informant offered Martinez a Powerade drink, which Martinez opened and drank from.

The informant then asked for the bottle back because he wanted that particular flavor of Powerade.

But the person delivering the drugs failed to appear, and Martinez and the informant agreed to meet later.

The informant took the Powerade bottle with him and gave it to FBI agents, who tagged it in to evidence so it could be tested for Martinez’s DNA.

Later in the day, according to court records, Martinez called the informant to tell him he had the pound of methamphetamine and arranged a place to meet.

The FBI had already set up the meeting place, a vacant house with electronic surveillance devices planted inside.

Martinez arrived, entered the house and delivered the methamphetamine.

To consummate the deal, the informant offered Martinez a bottle of beer, which Martinez opened and drank.

After Martinez left, FBI agents entered the building, tagging the beer bottle, bottle cap and pound of methamphetamine into evidence.

Court records make it clear that the agents wanted Martinez’s DNA from the bottle and cap.

On Oct. 4, agents raided Martinez’s home, recovering some methamphetamine and a “stripped and stolen” Chevrolet Tahoe.

They also found a photograph of the $5,000 that Martinez had sent via cellphone to his girlfriend along with a text message that said, “(i)t was a good day at work today.” Another message to the girlfriend from Martinez: “order up a pound of weed.”

Freed pending trial

Martinez was charged in federal court in early October with distribution of methamphetamine. He pleaded not guilty.

Martinez has no prior felony convictions, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered him released from federal detention, under conditions, pending trial.

Prosecutors appealed and U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez agreed with Yarbrough after holding a hearing.

She ordered Martinez released to a halfway house with a long list of restrictions.

Vázquez also ordered that Martinez provide federal investigators with a DNA sample, which is unusual in simple drug cases.

The results of Martinez’s DNA test are unknown and may not be completed at this point.

System lapses

The case has raised a host of questions about the system.

As the Journal reported on Friday, Fabian Gonzales should have been under probation supervision when Victoria was killed but had fallen through the cracks and that Jessica Kelley could well have been in prison at the time of the murder on new drug trafficking charges, except for a lapse that occurred under the office of then-District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

Kelley, who is in jail pending trial on the murder charge, quietly pleaded guilty to the new drug charges in January. District Attorney Raúl Torrez has filed papers asking that she be sentenced as a repeat offender.

Journal staff writer Elise Kaplan contributed to this story.

 

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