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Suspect in Victoria Martens case questions charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fabian Gonzales’ attorney is asking for a more specific explanation as to why his client is facing child abuse and conspiracy charges in the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

Prosecutors recently announced that much of the initial understanding of the case was based on the false statements of the child’s mother, Michelle Martens.

Contrary to early reports, neither Michelle Martens nor her boyfriend, Gonzales, was at the apartment at the time of the child’s death, but, prosecutors say, Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, was.

In light of the discovery, the state dismissed the most egregious charges Gonzales faced. The remaining counts against him consist of one count of child abuse resulting in death with multiple alternatives, eight counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of conspiracy.

Gonzales’ attorney, Tom Clark, filed a series of motions Wednesday and Thursday. In one, he asks the court to order the state to “produce a statement of facts which specify the actions giving rise to the criminal charges” Gonzales is facing. Without that, he says the allegations are too vague to formulate a defense.

Underlying the request is a question that Clark says will be key at trial: did Gonzales, a short-term boyfriend, have any legal obligation to protect the child?

“This would be a way different situation if Fabian had been entrusted with the care of the child, or if he had been alone with the child when this decision to leave her with Jessica was made,” Clark said Thursday. “He wasn’t. He was always in the mother’s company. The mother is the decision-maker. She has the legal obligation to protect the child.”

Michelle Martens pleaded guilty in June to child abuse resulting in death. Prosecutors said that although she wasn’t home when her daughter was killed, she had ample warning that the girl was in danger.

Kelley, prosecutors have said, was high on meth and had recently been released from prison. Police say the child was raped and killed before being mutilated and set on fire in her family’s Northwest Albuquerque apartment in August 2016.

In a separate request, Clark asked state District Judge Charles Brown to keep out a series of statements made by Kelley since she has been in custody. In one of those statements, an inmate asks Kelley whether Gonzales helped clean up after the homicide. And she replies, “of course he did.”

Clark is also asking to suppress the lapel camera footage recorded by the officers who discovered Martens’ burning, dismembered body because the recordings are both “extremely graphic and of a highly disturbing nature.” He also argues that the videos are not relevant to Gonzales’ case.

Gonzales is scheduled for trial in October.