RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Two women uplifted the memory of a child who died tragically last year by placing her name on a tile that will remain in place where children play.
Albuquerque resident Barbara Thomas can still remember waking up to hear the tragic news of 10-year-old Victoria Martens’ untimely death.
“I left my television on and dozed off, and when the story came on about Victoria, it actually woke me up,” Thomas said. “The words that were said woke me up.”
In August, the Albuquerque Police Department responded to a battery call at an apartment complex on the West Side, where officers found the mutilated remains of Martens. An autopsy revealed she had been raped and strangled to death. Her body was discovered mutilated and burned in the bathroom of her mother’s apartment.
Thomas said she held her grandchildren closer after hearing the details of the Martens case. Trying to find some kind of closure to this awful incident, Thomas decided she would try to memorialize Martens’ memory in a place where children play and have fun.
“I collected money from my co-workers at the Mid-Region Council of Government,” Thomas said. “When I told them what the money was for, I was able to raise $300 for the project.”
Thomas said she wanted to buy a tile to add to the three columns of tiles at A Park Above at 2441 Westside Court SE, between Unser and Golf Course. The tile was added there last Friday.
“We raised enough money for two tiles and a little extra,” Thomas said. “We worked really hard to afford two hearts to be placed on both sides of Victoria’s name.”
Thomas wants this tile to stand for all the children out there that deal with abuse quietly on a daily basis, she said.
“I think children, to a great extent, are considered property some times,” Thomas said. “The consequence of hurting a child isn’t great enough in the eyes of the law; it should be greater.”
Jennie Schulte-Riedl, president and CEO of A Park Above, said the tiles were a way for others to commemorate loved ones who have passed away and to recognize donors to the park.
“The initial reason I wanted these tiles is so we would be able to bring more people to the park and sponsor a lot of the perpetual funding that we need for the park,” Schulte-Riedl said. “Victoria’s tile is a commemoration of her life and reflection of her death.”
Martens’ tile is the only one on the wall with two hearts on it, which sets it apart from the park’s initial sponsorship plan, she said.
“She’s like an unspoken hero to the children, because children don’t have voices when they are being hurt or being abused…they are afraid,” Schulte-Riedl said. “Maybe they don’t even know they are being abused because that’s all they know of life.”
The tile resides at A Park Above because, according to Shulte-Riedl, it was Martens’ favorite place to play. Victoria was a student at Petroglyph Elementary in Northwest Albuquerque.