First defendant sentenced in gruesome death of Victoria Martens - Albuquerque Journal

First defendant sentenced in gruesome death of Victoria Martens

Jessica Kelley appears via Zoom from prison at a sentencing hearing Thursday where she was sentenced to 44 years in prison in the death of Victoria Martens in 2016.

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Nearly six years after the death and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, a judge has sentenced the first of three people charged in the girl’s 2016 killing.

Jessica Kelley, 37, was sentenced on Thursday to 44 years in prison for her role in one of the city’s most high-profile crimes.

Kelley pleaded no contest in January 2019 to six felony crimes, including reckless child abuse resulting in the death of a child under 12.

A plea of “no contest” means that Kelley is not admitting guilt, but she is not contesting the state’s version of events.

Second Judicial District Court Judge Cindy Leos sentenced Kelley to 50 years in prison with six years suspended, followed by five years probation.

Victoria Martens’ grandparents, John and Pat Martens, urged the judge to hand Kelley the maximum sentence. Pat Martens held a carved wooden box containing Victoria’s cremated remains.

“This is what’s left, a wooden box of her ashes,” John Martens told the judge as Pat Martens held up the box.

Kelley had agreed to babysit Victoria the day the girl was killed, John Martens said during the video hearing. “Instead, she decided to get high and participate in the brutal murder of Victoria,” then conceal the crime by dismembering and burning her body in a bathtub, he said.

“This is one evil person that does not belong on the street, or even on this earth,” Martens said.

Victoria Martens

Prosecutors have said that Kelley was “tweaking” and experiencing paranoid delusions from methamphetamine the day Victoria was killed on Aug. 23, 2016. Kelley had agreed to take care of Victoria while the girl’s mother, Michelle Martens, and Fabian Gonzales – Martens’ then-boyfriend and Kelley’s cousin – went out.

Prosecutors say an unknown man seeking revenge against Gonzales arrived at the apartment, according to the factual basis included in the plea agreement.

The man asked for Gonzales, then went to Victoria’s room and strangled the girl.

Prosecutors said Kelley “knew or should have known that the man posed a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm” to the girl and that Kelley should have tried to stop him.

Prosecutors contend Kelley and Gonzales dismembered the girl in order to dispose of her body.

Kelley also pleaded no contest to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for striking Michelle Martens with an iron and tampering with evidence for dismembering Victoria.

Martens, now 40, pleaded guilty in June 2018 to child abuse recklessly caused resulting in death in her daughter’s death and faces 18 years in prison. No sentencing hearing has been scheduled.

Gonzales, 37, is charged with child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence. His trial is scheduled for July.

Kelley declined to speak at her sentencing hearing Thursday. Her attorney, Mark Earnest, said Kelley declined to speak because she has agreed to testify in Gonzales’ trial.

“Given the nature of the case, and the fact that (Kelley) still has obligations under the plea agreement, she would like to reserve her right to address the court and interested others until after Mr. Gonzales’ trial,” Earnest said.

Immediately after the gruesome crime, police charged all three suspects with murder and said they had injected Victoria with methamphetamine, raped her and strangled and stabbed her to death. An autopsy report found no meth in Victoria’s system.

Almost two years after the homicide, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez revealed that investigators determined that Martens’ confession had been false and “contaminated” by the detectives interviewing her. Most of what was reported about the crime had been derived from Martens’ statements.

Instead, Torrez said a partial DNA sample was found on Victoria’s back, leading them to believe another person was there. An indictment has been filed against that person, called “John Doe.” The murder and rape charges against Martens and Gonzales were dropped. Six months later, in early 2019, Kelley pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. Her lawyer said experts determined there is no evidence Victoria was raped the night she was killed and prosecutors dropped that charge against Kelley.

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