Mother gets 12 years in Victoria Martens' death - Albuquerque Journal

Mother gets 12 years in Victoria Martens’ death

Michelle Martens appears at her sentencing hearing via Zoom on Thursday.

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A judge on Thursday sentenced Michelle Martens to 12 years in prison for her role in the strangulation and dismemberment of her 10-year-old daughter, Victoria Martens, marking the last of three co-defendants put behind bars in the girl’s 2016 death.

Martens, 41, has served more than six years at the Metropolitan Detention Center and will receive credit for 2,270 days of pre-sentence confinement toward her 12-year prison sentence. She also is eligible to receive good-time credit that could cut in half her remaining sentence.

Martens appeared to show little emotion Thursday and chose not to speak at her sentencing hearing, which she attended remotely from jail.

The sentencing appears to close the book on one of the most horrific child abuse cases in Albuquerque’s history. Gory details of Victoria’s death and mutilation shocked the public and led to a yearslong investigation that police called among the most complex they could recall. It’s still unclear who actually killed Victoria.

Martens pleaded guilty in 2018 to reckless child abuse resulting in the death. She faced a range of 12 to 15 years in prison under the plea agreement.

Victoria Martens (Courtesy of Martens family)

Second Judicial District Judge Cindy Leos cited mitigating circumstances in sentencing Martens to the low end of that range. Leos recalled a photo collage displayed on the wall of Martens’ apartment that contained photos of her two children.

“It shows how important these kids were to her,” Leos said of the collage. “It was a clean apartment – very well cared for. That sort of paints this picture of what was going on in that home with Ms. Martens and her children before Fabian (Gonzales) entered the picture.”

Fabian Gonzales, 38, Martens’ former boyfriend and co-defendant, was sentenced just two weeks ago to 37½ years in prison after jurors found him guilty of child abuse resulting in death, seven counts of tampering with evidence and conspiracy for his role in Victoria’s killing.

Martens “was easily manipulated” by Gonzales, Leos said, and was unable to see “what he was up to and the grave risk that was posed to her family.” But Martens still needs to face consequences for her actions, Leos said.

“Victoria Martens is gone because of some of the decisions Ms. Martens made in allowing Fabian Gonzales into her life and letting him take control, even though I don’t think she fully recognized just how quickly this was going to go bad,” Leos said.

Gonzales met Michelle Martens on a dating app in July 2016, just weeks before the girl’s Aug. 23, 2016, death.

Gonzales began using drugs in Michelle Martens’ apartment and let his cousin, Jessica Kelley, move in after her release from prison, witnesses testified at Gonzales’ trial.

Kelley, 37, pleaded no contest in 2019 to six felony charges, including reckless child abuse resulting in death and other charges in Victoria’s death. She was sentenced in April to 44 years in prison.

Kelley told police that a “well-dressed” Hispanic man entered the apartment and killed Victoria because Gonzales had threatened people at a cookout several days earlier. Prosecutors indicted “John Doe” in 2018 for first-degree murder, but his identity remains unknown.

Michelle Martens’ parents, John and Pat Martens, listen to their daughter’s sentencing hearing via Zoom Thursday. The couple didn’t speak at the hearing.

Investigators learned from cellphone records that Martens and Gonzales were not in the apartment at the time Victoria was killed – a fact acknowledged by Deputy District Attorney Greer Staley at Martens’ sentencing hearing.

“We know through investigation that Ms. Martens was not even home when the homicide of her daughter happened,” Staley said. “We know that she did not tamper with her daughter’s body or participate in the cleanup that her two co-defendants participated in.”

Martens’ attorney, Gary Mitchell, described his client as a hard worker and “model inmate” at MDC who continues to grieve for the loss of her daughter.

“She always wanted to be accepted, particularly by a man,” Mitchell said. “And that creates massive problems and created problems in this case.”

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