Before she was horrifically murdered and dismembered, 10-year-old Victoria Martens was a fourth grader who loved purple, gymnastics, her church, and swimming.
The child’s death has galvanized the Albuquerque community, with people expressing outrage and grief for the little girl who was murdered in an unimaginable manner as her own mother allegedly watched.
Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, 35, and her short-term boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, 31, were charged in Victoria’s death. Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, 31, is also facing charges.
However, there were many twists and turns since. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the mother was accused of making false statements that accused matters in the case. The mother and Gonzales were not home when Victoria was killed, the newspaper reported. Authorities accuse Kelley and an unidentified man of being there, however, the newspaper reported. Thus, the rape and murder charges against Gonzales were dismissed, and Victoria’s mother faced child abuse charges.
“This homicide is the most gruesome act of evil I have ever seen in my career,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. “A complete disregard of human life and betrayal by a mother.”
Victoria was allegedly drugged with methamphetamine so Gonzales could have sex with her before she was strangled or stabbed, her arms were cut off, and she was set on fire in a bathtub, the criminal complaint alleges. Read criminal complaints in the case here and here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Victoria Was Killed the Day After Her 10th Birthday
CBS News says that Victoria was slain on the day after her 10th birthday. She was in the fourth grade, according to CNN.
Victoria had a half-brother. His father, Jason Oetting’s lawyer told KOAT he helped raise Victoria for several years and contended that Michelle has “never been a monster, she got mixed up with the worst kind of people and that contributed to a downward spiral from what we can tell.”
But KOAT said police say Michelle did not appear remorseful for her child’s death.
The community is throwing Victoria a birthday party on August 28 at a local park. One woman wrote on Facebook, “There are no ‘other people’s children.’ She is our child too.”
2. Victoria Attended a Local Church & Her Favorite Color Was Purple
Family Church in New Mexico said Victoria was a parishioner. “We are deeply saddened by the recent death of our sweet Victoria Martens,” the church wrote on Facebook. “Victoria had been a very integral part of our spiritual family at Family Church. She was deeply loved and will be deeply missed. Our prayers are with her brother, Matthew, her grandmother, Pat and the rest of their family.”
A local minister, Laura Bobbs, told the Albuquerque Journal “she was planning the girl’s birthday celebration for when the child was supposed to arrive home from school Wednesday afternoon. They were going to have pedicures and manicures and eat cake,” said ABC 7.
“Who does this to a little child?” she asked, according to ABC 7. “…Oh what evil.”
A family friend told the Albuquerque Journal that Michelle, who had worked at Walgreen’s, “went to church, she was a good lady” and the newspaper said that Victoria was “also very passionate about God and Christianity.”
The slaying has also motivated the broader community. Vigils have been held, top politicians have expressed outrage, and local schoolchildren have been wearing purple – her favorite color – in Victoria’s memory.
New Mexico’s governor said the crime “is unspeakable and justice should come down like a hammer,” and called the killer a “monster,” said People Magazine. “This is a horrific tragedy for our community,” the police chief said in a news conference. “I want to assure the public that we will pursue justice.”
3. The Horrific Details Involve The Girl’s Dismemberment & Being Injected With Methamphetamine, Reports Contend
The criminal complaint alleges that police found Victoria’s dismembered body in a burning blanket in the bathroom of her home, said People Magazine.
The police chief said in a news conference that officers were called to the residence around 4:30 referencing a battery. KOB4 said Gonzales claimed Kelley killed Victoria, but Michelle Martens said Gonzales strangled Victoria, and Kelley stabbed her in the chest, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the criminal complaint against Victoria’s mother, when officers arrived, they found Michelle bleeding from a head injury and Gonzales with a black eye and blood-stained shorts. The officer said he was informed that Kelley had hit Michelle with an iron. Michelle and Fabian said they fled by jumping over the balcony, and Michelle said her daughter was still inside the apartment.
According to KOB 4, the injuries on Gonzales and Michelle Martens were “likely caused by them fighting each other after the murder,” police said.
When the officers went to the apartment, Kelley jumped from a balcony, the complaint alleged. Officers apprehended Kelley and then returned to the department to find smoke filling it and a female child “rolled partially in a blanket not moving, on fire in the bathtub,” said the criminal complaint. The officer put the fire out, but Victoria had no pulse.
The police officers found the child’s arms in a white plastic bag in a plastic hamper in the living room and noted bruising around the child’s neck, possibly signs of strangulation, said the complaint.
Gonzales claimed that Jessica killed and dismembered the child and denied involvement, said the complaint, but Michelle said Jessica, who was Fabian’s cousin, had just been released from prison about four days before, and she allowed her to stay with her and Fabian.
The mother said that Fabian and Jessica gave her daughter methamphetamine “to calm her down so they could have sex with her. She then stated Fabian had sex with (Victoria) while Jessica put her hand over (Victoria’s) mouth while she watched them,” the complaint said. The mother said Fabian then choked the child, and Kelley then stabbed the child in the torso and held out the girl’s arms while Fabian cut them off, the complaint alleged.
Watch the police chief’s initial press conference here:
When she was released from the hospital, Kelley yelled, “F*** you,” said KRQE.
The TV station said Kelley was injured by jumping off the balcony to escape the police. When a reporter asked Kelley, “Why is the little girl dead?” Kelley replied, “She’s a little girl. I don’t know,” said KOB 4.
The Albuquerque Journal says investigators believe Victoria died from the strangulation or from being stabbed, but they are awaiting results of an autopsy.
4. Victoria’s Mother Met Gonzales on a Dating Site & Victoria Loved Gymnastics & Swimming
CBS News says Victoria, an elementary school student, loved gymnastics and swimming.
Victoria attended G-Force Gymnastics Academy in a beginning recreational class. Her gymnastics teacher told KRQE she was a “beautiful child, very friendly, very outgoing” and recalled how “Victoria did handstands and practiced balancing on the beam each Saturday” in the class. She added that Michelle Martens would stay and watch her daughter practice, the TV station said.
WSMV said Victoria was “described by neighbors from her blue-collar apartment complex as a seemingly happy and sociable girl who loved to swim and dance.”
According to the criminal complaint, Gonzales and Martens met a month before the murder on the dating site Plenty of Fish. Michelle was currently working at a local grocery store, although she had worked at Walgreen’s in the past, said WSMV.
Martens wrote in her online profile that she was religious and “Looking for someone I can trust” and Gonzales said he has kids and does not like angry people, KRQE said. On Facebook, Martens filled her page with photos of her two children.
The minister, Bobbs, told The Albuquerque Journal that Martens did not have contact with Victoria’s father and had never mentioned Gonzales, adding, “We didn’t even know she was dating this guy. We don’t know what made her do this.”
Some in the community have called for the death penalty in the case, but New Mexico does not currently have the death penalty.
5. Gonzales & Kelley Have Criminal Records & Gonzales Was Supposed to be Under State Supervision But Wasn’t
KOB 4 says Kelley’s past record includes charges of “criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping, battery and resisting arrest.” A relative told the TV station that Kelley had spiraled into a life of drugs and crime after her father died when she was young. Among other offenses, she was accused of being the lookout while a woman raped an inmate, said The Albuquerque Journal, which added that Michelle Martens has no past record.
Gonzales’ arrest record includes “a felony child abuse charge, driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest,” said CBS News, which added that he was supposed to be on supervised probation but wasn’t.
“Department of Corrections Officials tell the station they never received the documentation informing them that Gonzales was required to be under their supervision,” says CBS.
Gonzales and Martens are being held on $1 million cash bond each, said The Albuquerque Journal.
WSMV said that Gonzales was supposed to be on probation supervision for a case in which he was arrested for “beating another woman in a car with a baby inside it while the woman was driving and ended up pleading no contest to two misdemeanor crimes that kept him out of jail.”