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Mourners bid farewell to ‘a borrowed angel’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Several hundred mourners came together to sing songs, pray and pay respects to the little girl whose horrific death shocked the city.

Victoria Martens

Victoria Martens

A memorial service for 10-year-old Victoria Martens drew a crowd to Copper Pointe Church in northeast Albuquerque on Saturday. Martens was raped, killed and partially dismembered in August, and three adults, including Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, have been charged in connection with the gruesome slaying.

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Hector Balderas attended the event and spoke during the service, as did the pastor of Family Church, which Martens attended with her grandparents. Pictures of Martens were displayed, and a slideshow of her and her younger brother was played on large television screens in the church, which hosted the event because it can easily accommodate hundreds of people.

“It was good seeing people come together and recognize what happened, and celebrate the girl’s life,” said Daniel Wieck, a city resident who attended.

A ceremonial casket was at the service, since Victoria’s body hasn’t been released by the Office of the Medical Investigator, said Lainie Brunetto, the projects manager at Copper Pointe.

Laura Bobbs, whose young daughters were friends with Victoria, said many of Victoria’s relatives were in attendance. Bobbs said Victoria leaves behind aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents.

“When I look around this church today, I see our community. We are all so different, but we share one common thing: We care about this family, and we care about Victoria,” Eden said during the nearly two-hour ceremony.

Albuquerque police officers responded to the scene of Victoria’s killing and Eden has said officers were troubled by the horrific scene.

Michelle Martens, Fabian Gonzales and Jessica Kelley have all been arrested in the case. They are all charged with first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13, intentional abuse of a child under 12 and many other counts. In criminal complaints filed against the trio, police say Martens admitted that Gonzales and Kelley raped her daughter while she watched. Gonzales then strangled the girl and Kelley stabbed her.

After Victoria was dead, she was partially dismembered and burned before police arrived at the West Side apartment complex where she lived, according to the court documents.

Gov. Susana Martinez speaks during the Saturday memorial service for Victoria Martens, who was brutally killed in August. Three adults, including her mother, have been charged with her murder. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Gov. Susana Martinez speaks during the Saturday memorial service for Victoria Martens, who was brutally killed in August. Three adults, including her mother, have been charged with her murder. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Martinez was emotional during her remarks and her voice cracked at times when she described Victoria as a sweet, kind little girl.

“I cannot imagine what this casket holds – a little girl who deserves to still be here,” she said.

Balderas said Victoria, as described to him by teachers, had a spark and was friendly with special needs children.

“One thing that resonated with me, as someone who tries to protect children, is that she truly was a borrowed angel,” he said. “It’s what perfectly articulates why so many New Mexicans are in pain.”

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