The last time anyone outside of her home saw Victoria Martens, she was being carried down the stairwell of a New Mexico apartment building, in the arms of a woman who had been released from prison just eight days before.
“Are you ready?” Jessica Kelley was heard by neighbors asking the little girl, who may have already been hurt by that time.
Victoria, who had turned 10 years old that day, was most certainly not ready for what Kelley, Kelley’s cousin Fabian Gonzalez, and Victoria’s own mother Michelle Martens are accused of doing to her that night.
In the early hours of the next morning, August 24, 2016, police would find Victoria’s partially dismembered body wrapped in a burning blanket in the bathtub of her mother’s Albuquerque apartment.
Though neighbors reportedly heard screams at around 3 a.m., no one called the police until about an hour and a half later, when Michelle Martens and Fabian Gonzalez ran to a neighbor’s apartment claiming that Jessica Kelley was attacking them, and that Victoria was still in the home.
When police arrived to Martens’ second-story apartment, Kelley first chain-locked the door to keep them out and then tried to escape by jumping from the balcony. Police quickly caught up to her and took her into custody.
Inside the apartment, the fire alarm was going off and police saw smoke pouring out from beneath a closed bathroom door. There, they found what was left of the sweet, beautiful little girl who loved the color purple.
[WARNING: The below account contains graphic, disturbing detail about the violent murder of a child.]
Both her arms were missing, CNN reported, and her left leg was almost entirely cut off. Investigators found body parts wrapped in plastic and tossed in a hamper. Victoria’s bedroom floor was covered in bloodstains.
The horror doesn’t end there. Victoria’s mother allegedly had sex with Gonzalez, her boyfriend of one month, after witnessing him and Kelley rape and murder the 10-year-old girl. She then made dinner for the three of them. Authorities have reportedly found evidence that suggests the suspects took photos and posted on social media the night of Victoria’s death.
But as the active investigation into the circumstances of the horrific slaying continues, it remains unclear at what point during the nightmarish ordeal Victoria died. It is also not known if detectives ever recovered the weapon used to dismember the little girl. Nearly a month after the killing, they had not found it.
— UJReview (@UJReview) August 25, 2016
Martens, Kelley and Gonzalez have all been charged with Victoria’s murder, and all have pleaded not guilty. Gonzalez reportedly placed all of the blame for the rape and killing on Kelley, who reportedly suggested during her arrest that there had been another adult in the apartment besides the three of them.
Police have not named any additional suspects but have obtained DNA from a suspected drug dealer with links to Kelley and Gonzalez.
Martens has been the most forthcoming with details about her daughter’s ghastly death, but her account has been inconsistent. She admitted to gaining sexual pleasure from watching the suspects sexually assault her daughter, and reportedly told police she had sought out men to have sex with her daughter, and possibly her young son, in the past.
The little girl’s mother reportedly told police that on the night she died, Victoria had ingested methamphetamine, claiming to believe that is what killed her. But a medical examination found that the little girl had died of strangulation; at one point, Martens told police that Gonzalez had choked her daughter.
Alcohol was found in Victoria’s system, but not methamphetamine. An autopsy report cited evidence of “penetrating rectal trauma” and prior sexual abuse. Victoria’s heart and part of her liver had been cut out of her body, thrown into the hamper with her amputated arms.
“This homicide is the most gruesome act of evil I have ever seen in my career,” Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. said in a statement following Victoria’s murder.
“A complete disregard of human life and betrayal by a mother.”
Indeed, Victoria’s murder is considered to be among the most horrifying crimes in New Mexico’s history. And adding to the tragedy — along with the fury over the innocent little girl’s nightmarish death — investigators and reporters have found indications that it could have been prevented.
— KOAT.com (@koat7news) November 7, 2017
Kelley had been previously convicted of sexual assault, and likely should have been behind bars at the time of Victoria’s murder. Though she has served her sentence related to that conviction, Kelley also had pending drug charges against her, and an indictment came too late because of a critical — and unexplained — delay in the District Attorney’s office.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, a judge had dismissed felony drug possession charges against Kelley in September 2015, but only temporarily, pending additional discovery and forensic analysis. Police told the newspaper that the necessary test results were sent to the D.A.’s office in December 2015, and would have been enough for a conviction. But for reasons still unknown, Kelley was not indicted on those charges until a few weeks after Victoria’s murder.
And while Michelle Martens did not have a criminal record outside of traffic violations, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CFYD) case workers had been in contact with Victoria Martens multiple times before her death. And one of her mother’s former boyfriends, who was later found to have been arrested for the attempted kidnapping of another little girl, allegedly kissed or tried to kiss Victoria when he was living with her mother. Though the alleged assault was reported to police, the Albuquerque Police Department reportedly dismissed the case, deeming it unworthy of investigation.
Further, during the course of the investigation, a police officer reportedly lied about following up on a tip from CYFD that the little girl may have been the victim of abuse. But the Civilian Police Oversight Agency found that the officer was not telling the truth.
Victoria’s grandparents, John and Pat Martens, have filed a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque claiming that law enforcement did not take seriously enough indications that Victoria was in danger and did not do enough to ensure her safety. In a response to the suit, the police department reportedly defended itself in denying that police action or inaction had any bearing on Victoria’s death, and also claimed that two of Victoria’s relatives, who have not been identified, were aware of abuse and did not report it.
All three suspects will be tried individually, beginning with Martens’ murder trial in July 2018.
[Feature image: Facebook]