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Judge blocks testimony of ‘expert’ at Martens trial

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A judge on Tuesday blocked a private investigator and former officer from testifying as an expert witness for defendant Fabian Gonzales about local police tactics used in the investigation of the death and dismemberment of a young Albuquerque girl.

The ruling came at the end of a two-day hearing on the matter that started last week. Gonzales, who is scheduled to stand trial in January, is the last of three defendants facing charges in connection to the death of Victoria Martens, whose burning body was found by Albuquerque police in a West Side apartment complex in August 2016.

Two other defendants, Jessica Kelley and Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, have accepted plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have also indicted “John Doe,” based on a partial DNA profile found on Victoria Martens’ back.

Three years ago, the case against Gonzales was turned on its head when District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced that further investigation revealed Gonzales and Martens weren’t at the apartment when Victoria Martens was killed, and that there was no evidence the former couple was involved in the rape or slaying of the child. Gonzales was originally charged with murder, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and other charges.

He is now facing a single count of child abuse resulting in death, eight counts of tampering with evidence and one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. The indictment against him says he is facing the child abuse charge because he recklessly placed Victoria Martens in a situation which endangered her life.

Maurice Moya, a private investigator, was hired by Gonzales’ defense team and examined the evidence. He said during a recent court hearing that police made many errors during their probe.

The errors, he said, included: using poor tactics during the interrogations; not collecting a green pen found in the bedroom; failing to identify a smudge on the carpet; only searching two of three dumpsters at the apartment complex; not testing the DNA of neighborhood children; and not analyzing a scoop in the litter box at the home.

“I think the relevance will become more obvious to the court during the trial,” Stephen Aarons, Gonzales’ attorney, said during the hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Greer Rose said that Moya hasn’t worked as a police officer since he left Albuquerque police in 1989.

“His time as a police officer in the 70s and 80s does not give him a perpetual ground to be an expert in all types of police work,” she said. “He wants to claim, ‘I was trained this way, I would have done it this way, or they should have done something this way.’ … Sort of a Monday morning quarterback of what he thinks should have happened.”

District Judge Cindy Leos said Moya will be able to help the defense team cross examine police investigators about their actions, but that she wouldn’t allow him to testify as an expert witness.

“As the gatekeeper of evidence, … I don’t think Mr. Moya is qualified to testify,” she said. “That’s based on the fact that I didn’t hear anything supporting his conclusions, nothing scientific, nothing from his experience or training or education that would support his conclusions.”

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