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Girl’s killing prompts state review of probation

New Mexico Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel

New Mexico Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel

Corrections officials have launched a review to see if a mistake that allowed a now-murder suspect to skirt two years of supervised probation was an isolated incident or part of a bigger problem.

The review was prompted by the revelation that Fabian Gonzales, one of three suspects charged in last week’s brutal rape and murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, should have been on supervised probation, but wasn’t, when the girl was killed in her Albuquerque apartment.

Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said in a letter sent Tuesday to James Noel, the executive officer of the 2nd Judicial District Court, that Marcantel had instructed his staff to review probation records from Jan. 1, 2015, through the present to see if people sentenced to probation avoided serving their sentence.

“We’re double-checking everything,” said Alex Sanchez, the deputy secretary of administration for corrections. “But at this point we haven’t identified any others.”

Sanchez has said the Corrections Department never received the paperwork notifying it that Gonzales, 31, had been sentenced to supervised probation. Court officials say they sent the information.

Gonzales in February 2015 was sentenced by 2nd Judicial District Judge Cristina Jaramillo to two years of probation as part of a plea agreement for domestic violence and child abandonment. Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors didn’t seek or recommend jail time because they were having trouble locating the primary witness and the child was not injured.

“Given that it was doubtful the named victim and independent witness would be located, securing a conviction at trial was highly unlikely,” he said in an email. “The State agreed to probation in order to have the defendant supervised and attend counseling and treatment since jail would be unlikely through the trial process.”

The probation would have included random home visits by his probation officer and drug tests, as well as counseling and drug and alcohol treatment, none of which happened, Sanchez said.

Corrections officials said they didn’t know the sentence had been handed down, and Gonzales never reported to the probation office. A probation officer was never assigned to Gonzales.

Last Wednesday, police said Gonzales raped and killed Martens and he was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13, child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and other charges. Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, 31, and Gonzales’ girlfriend, Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, have also been charged with crimes in connection to the girl’s death.

Tim Korte, a spokesman for the 2nd Judicial District Court, said the court emailed the Corrections Department the sentencing documents for Gonzales and about two dozen other inmates several days after the sentences were handed down last year.

He said the court had used the same procedures to alert the Corrections Department that someone was sentenced to probation from 2012 through June 2015, when the courts shifted to a different system.

But corrections officials said the email address that the court sent the information to had been turned off a month earlier.

“We are very, very confident we never received (information) that the email had been taken out of service,” Korte said.

Marcantel specifically asked the court to resend all the documents they had sent to the outdated email address.

He said in the letter to Noel that human error will “always be a factor to confront” and that corrections and the court need to collaborate, echoing statements Noel made in a prior letter to Marcantel.

“The DOC and Court Administration now need to work together to maintain public confidence in the operations of its government,” Noel told Marcantel earlier this week.