ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden held a news conference Tuesday to announce that three small children were dead, many asked the same question:
An alarming number of children have been killed in Albuquerque recently, many of them in violent, high-profile crimes that have left the community reeling. And Monday’s horrific shooting, which happened in the heart of one of Albuquerque’s more established and well-known neighborhoods, was perhaps even more shocking due to the number of victims.
A 5-year-old boy, 6-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy – all siblings – are dead. Their mom was left in critical condition herself.
Mayor Richard Berry said in the news conference that too many children in Albuquerque have died from violence in recent years.
“There is no way you can fill the tearing away of the soul of the community when a child is lost in a senseless act of violence,” Berry said. “You can do everything you can to make it better moving forward, but you can never replace the loss of a child.”
Other young victims of adults’ alleged criminal acts include:
Lilly Garcia, 4
Lilly was shot and killed on busy Interstate 40 in October 2015 during a road rage incident between her dad and another man. Lilly’s dad, Alan Garcia, was driving her and her brother home from school when the suspect, Tony Torrez, got in an altercation with Garcia and the men “exchanged words.” Torrez then opened fire on Garcia’s truck.
Lilly, who was sitting in her car seat, was struck by one of those bullets and died at a local hospital.
Torrez was arrested and charged with murder. He took a plea deal last week for a lesser second-degree murder charge and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Jayden Dayea, 1
Police responding to a call on Feb. 29, 2016, found 1-year-old Jayden covered in bruises with blood in his mouth. They couldn’t save him, and he died at the scene.
Jayden had been with his mom’s boyfriend, Jorge Ortega, that day. It’s unclear what exactly happened because police said at the time Ortega was too drunk to be interviewed, but he had blood on his chest.
He was charged with child abuse resulting in death and criminal sexual contact. His trial is scheduled for May 2017, according to online court records.
Victoria Martens, 10
The killing of 10-year-old Victoria Martens was one of the city’s most shocking crimes ever. She was stabbed, dismembered and set on fire before officers found her body early in the morning of Aug. 24. Victoria had a 10th birthday party planned for that day.
Her own mother is among those charged. Michelle Martens, Fabian Gonzales and Jessica Kelley have all been charged with murder, rape and other crimes.
Victoria’s death prompted calls across the state for justice, and some used it to suggest reinstating the death penalty in New Mexico.
Nhi Nguyen, 11
Nhi had just started school in Albuquerque after moving from Vietnam with her mother and was soaking up every minute. But her mother’s abusive relationship ended all that when the mom’s husband, Trinh Tran Van, shot and killed the girl and her mother, Cam Thi To.
He then turned the gun on himself. The bodies of all three were found on Aug. 28.
To had been working at a nail salon to support the family and send money back to family members in Vietnam.
Police said there was a history of abuse between her and Van, and he had an open case for allegedly battering her. A family friend said the couple had agreed to split up only a few days before the shooting.
Carmen Esmeralda Rivera Nevarez, 10
Carmen was in her family’s SUV just after midnight the morning of Nov. 13 when another vehicle slammed into them. The girl was ejected on I-25 and died at the scene.
Police say the driver of the other vehicle was Xavier Nelson, now 23, who was racing another car down the interstate at speeds up to 110 mph before he crashed into Carmen’s family’s SUV.
Officers found the prescription sedative Alprazolam in his pocket, and he’s been charged with vehicular homicide.