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Report: CYFD early referral in Martens case found no evidence of abuse

Victoria Martens

Victoria Martens

JACOBSON: Wants communities to join together

JACOBSON: Wants communities to join together

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state Children, Youth and Families Department investigation into four referrals to the agency about the family of 10-year-old Victoria Martens prior to her brutal murder last August found that state workers were thorough, followed procedure and uncovered no evidence of physical or sexual abuse.

Autopsy results recently released confirmed that the cause of death was strangulation and that she had been sexually abused prior to her rape and murder.

The CYFD report confirmed that of the four reports, only one of them concerned an allegation involving Victoria, and that allegation and three others about her sibling or a family member were found to be unsubstantiated by CYFD investigators, according to a summary of the investigation released Friday.

Another summary, of an internal review of how CYFD handled the case to determine if it conducted investigations in accordance with state statute and agency policy and procedure, also was released.

Both were completed last November, but CYFD held off on releasing them to the public at the request of the Albuquerque Police Department, which wanted to first complete its investigation into the child’s death, CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson told the Journal on Friday.

The autopsy of Victoria Martens was still pending in November when the CYFD investigation summary was completed. The summary noted that even though a cause of death “has not yet been disclosed, upon information and belief, the manner of death was a homicide.”

The autopsy report was subsequently made public earlier this month. It listed the cause of death as strangulation and said the child had been sexually abused prior to her rape, murder and mutilation. It further said she had the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. Forensic pathologists cite this as evidence that she suffered sexual abuse before the night of Aug. 23, 2016, when her dismembered body was found on fire in the bathtub of her mother’s Northwest Albuquerque apartment.

Charged in connection with Victoria’s death was her mother, Michelle Martens, her boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin Jessica Kelley.

The summary also said CYFD investigators found all allegations against Michelle Martens, Gonzales and Kelly “substantiated.”

According to the CYFD summary, the agency received one call in March 2015 and three others in May and June 2016, about the Martens family, though only one of those calls was specifically about Victoria, and none of the calls alleged physical or sexual abuse. All four calls were investigated by CYFD, Jacobson said.

The first of those contacts was on March 14, 2015, when CYFD’s Statewide Central Intake, or SCI, which screens all incoming neglect and abuse calls, got information that Victoria and her sibling (younger brother), “had poor hygiene and dirty clothes, that a grandparent had improperly disciplined the sibling, and that Michelle Martens and the grandparent had consumed alcohol in front of the children.”

The call was screened in for investigation by CYFD and cross-reported to the Albuquerque Police Department’s Crimes Against Children’s Unit, the summary said.

Jacobson said both children were interviewed at school, separately and outside the presence of their parents and grandparent. Neither child had any marks, bruises or evidence of physical abuse, and they appeared to be clean and well cared for, she said. Neither did either child disclose any physical or sexual abuse when they were questioned by CYFD investigators, as per standard protocol.

Consequently, the allegations were unsubstantiated against the mother, the biological father and the grandparent, Jacobson said.

In May and June 2016, SCI received three calls that referenced only the younger sibling. The allegations ranged from hygiene concerns to the sibling’s biological father leaving the child with an unknown caretaker. None of the calls alleged physical or sexual abuse, and all three incidents were cross reported to APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit.

At least two of those calls were made by Michelle Martens herself. The third call came in anonymously. The summary noted that the biological father of the children was involved in a pending custody and child support case with Michelle Martens.

CYFD investigated all three reports, interviewing both children at school and home, outside the presence of adult family members. Neither child made any disclosures about physical or sexual abuse when asked.

All three allegations involving the sibling were unsubstantiated by CYFD investigators.

Jacobson also noted that on March 28, 2016, CYFD was notified by an unnamed source that Michelle Martens’ former boyfriend attempted to kiss Victoria. The source said that Michelle Martens immediately broke off contact with the man, who no longer had access to the children. Because the boyfriend was not a parent, guardian or live-in custodian, the case fell outside CYFD jurisdiction and authority to investigate, Jacobson said. The agency, however, referred it to APD. The summary does not say what happened to the case after APD received it.

The internal review of CYFD’s handling of the Martens case was ordered by Jacobson. The review was conduced by Karla Young, a CYFD Research Assessment and Data Bureau Chief, “who is not in the chain of command of any of the people involved in the investigation,” Jacobson said.

A summary of that review indicated that the various CYFD investigations conducted were “in accordance with state statute and agency policy and procedure.” Further, it said, there were “no significant deviations from required practice that would have impacted the outcome of these investigations.”