The New Mexico Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision by an Albuquerque judge to suppress some evidence of drug use by Fabian Gonzales.
The case will now be remanded back to state District Court for trial.
Gonzales, 35, was scheduled to go to trial in the fall of 2018 on charges of reckless abuse of a child resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence in the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in August 2016.
The case was put on hold after the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office appealed Judge Charles Brown’s decision to exclude evidence of drug use by Gonzales, and his cousin and codefendant Jessica Kelley in the week before Victoria was killed.
Only evidence of drug and alcohol use on the day of Victoria’s death will be allowed, said Gonzales’ attorney, Stephen Aarons.
“Given cases that indicate prior drug transactions or usage can be extremely prejudicial … and the fact that the district court ruled that limited evidence of Defendant’s drug use with Ms. Kelley would be allowed, we conclude that the State has failed to establish that the district court’s balancing of the probative and prejudicial value of the evidence at hand was contrary to what logic or reason requires,” the written opinion states.
That opinion, written by Judge J. Miles Hanisee, says the DA’s Office argued that evidence of Gonzales’ drug use should be admitted because it shows his knowledge of the risk of harm he created by inviting Kelley to live in the apartment with Gonzales, Victoria and Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, and to care for Victoria on the day she was killed.
“While we disagree with the ruling, the Court of Appeals has set the groundwork for trial,” DA’s Office spokesman Adolfo Mendez said in an email Thursday. “Our Office is preparing to mount a vigorous case against Mr. Gonzales.”
Prosecutors believe Gonzales and Michelle Martens left Victoria alone with Kelley, who was high on methamphetamine. According to court documents, Kelley has said a man walked into the apartment and killed Victoria in retaliation for threats Gonzales made to gang members.
Kelley and Martens have pleaded to various crimes connected to Victoria’s death and are awaiting sentencing.