Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
It’s a crime that has left the community reeling in disbelief.
What, people wondered, could be worse than a mother accused of standing by as her boyfriend and another woman drugged, raped and killed her 10-year-old daughter?
But on Thursday, court records detailed even more of the unimaginable.
Officers arrived at the Northwest Albuquerque apartment near Golf Course and Irving around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and found a cloud of smoke wafting from the bathroom.
Young Victoria Martens’ dismembered body was burning in the bathtub, half-wrapped in a blanket. Parts of her body were found in a plastic bag in a laundry hamper, and the floor of her bedroom was stained with blood.
Three people, including the girl’s mother, are accused in the killing. Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, 35, faces multiple charges including child abuse resulting in great bodily harm or death, along with her new boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, 31, and his cousin Jessica Kelley, 31, who had just been released from prison.
Both Martens and Gonzales told investigators they met only about a month ago on a dating website. Gonzales told reporters and police that he wasn’t involved in the crime, putting the blame on Kelley.
But Martens told investigators that she watched as Gonzales and Kelley injected Victoria with methamphetamine “to calm her down” so they could both sexually assault her. She said Gonzales then strangled her and Kelley stabbed her.
The two of them dismembered the girl’s body, according to Martens’ statement to police.
“This homicide is the most gruesome act of evil I have ever seen in my career,” said Police Chief Gorden Eden. It’s “a complete disregard of human life and betrayal by a mother.”
Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier choked up as he said the girl’s body was so mutilated that investigators are not sure how she died. They believe she died either from the strangulation or stab wounds, but are waiting for an autopsy to be completed.
He asked the public to keep the first responders in their thoughts.
“What these gentlemen and women saw, no human being should ever have to see,” Tixier said outside the main police station downtown late Wednesday night. Another officer cried behind Tixier as he addressed a group of reporters.
$1 million bond
At their first appearance in Metropolitan Court Thursday afternoon, Gonzales and Martens, both shackled, shuffled into view of the camera as it broadcast to the court from the county jail.
Judge Linda Rogers, following the recommendation of the court’s background investigators, set the bond for both at $1 million cash only.
Martens has no previous criminal history, according to background investigators, save for a bench warrant for a traffic ticket. That didn’t sway the judge.
“I’m not sure there are community bonds strong enough to convince the court she’s not a flight risk,” Judge Rogers said.
Kelley remains in the hospital after injuries she received trying to flee the scene. Court records say she jumped off a balcony.
Kelley has a criminal history dating back to 2003, and court records show she acted as a lookout while a woman allegedly raped another inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center in September 2012.
In that incident, the victim said the other suspect asked her to engage in sexual activity, and she said no. Kelley then allegedly threatened her, battered her, and then stood guard while the other suspect raped her with an object, according to a criminal complaint filed against Kelley.
Kelley pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit criminal sexual penetration, second degree, and was sentenced to three years in prison minus nearly a year for time served.
She’s faced numerous drug- and domestic violence-related charges in the past as well, many of which were dismissed.
Gonzales’ criminal history dates back to 2004. He has never been convicted of a felony, but pleaded no contest to misdemeanor abandonment of a child in 2015 after officers say he battered a woman while they were in a moving car with an infant in the back seat.
Struggle to understand
At a well-kept, middle class house in Northwest Albuquerque, friends and family gathered around Victoria’s grandparents midday Thursday. Flowers, cards and photos of the girl’s smiling face covered the countertops.
Laura Bobbs, a minister and close friend of the family, said Martens had no contact with Victoria’s father. She said Martens had never mentioned Gonzales to them.
“She’d only known him for about a month,” Bobbs said. “We didn’t even know she was dating this guy. We don’t know what made her do this.”
Several miles away, on the corner in front of the apartment where Victoria died, friends, neighbors and strangers also struggled to understand what had happened. Throughout the day, people stopped to pay their respects and laid balloons, flowers and stuffed animals at the base of a tree.
Rachell Miera, an acquaintance of Martens from work and church, brought her three crying daughters, only a little older than Victoria, to drop off balloons.
She said the family had seen Martens on the news and she explained to her daughters what happened.
“Drugs can make people do some really bad things…,” Miera said. “Michelle went to church, she was a good lady. It was very shocking to all of us.”
Miera said Victoria was also very passionate about God and Christianity.
She said Martens worked at Walgreens up until a few months ago, and court officials said she most recently was working at a Smith’s.
Miera said when she worked with Martens at Walgreens, Victoria and her younger brother would come to the store all the time.
“They were always happy and excited to come in and talk to us,” she said.
At Petroglyph Elementary School, where Victoria was a fourth-grader, students, parents, teachers, and administrators struggled to absorb the news.
Monica Armenta, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Public Schools, said counselors are on hand to talk to anyone who needs it, and administrators and staff from other schools have jumped in to help.
She said everyone at the school is devastated, especially a teacher who taught Victoria the year before.
“A lot of the kids who normally ride the bus or walk to school by themselves were there with their parents today,” she said. “They had that look of disbelief and pain.”