On August 24, 2016, the body of Victoria Martens, a 10-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was found in her mother's apartment building. Officers had responded to a 911 call about domestic abuse and found Victoria's dismembered body wrapped in a burning blanket.
Victoria's mother, Michelle Martens, her boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin, Jessica Kelley, were arrested and charged with first degree murder, child abuse, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, among other charges.
On June 29, 2019, Michelle Martens plead guilty to one count of child abuse leading to death. Jessica Kelley has also plead no contest to the charges against her. Fabian Gonzales is still awaiting trial.
VICTORIA'S LIFE AND DEATH
Victoria was born on August 23, 2006, meaning she had just celebrated her 10th birthday the day before her body would be found. She attended Petroglyph Elementary School in Albuquerque. Her mom, Michelle, had no criminal record, but would later tell police that she would find men online to engage in sexual acts with her 2 children, including Victoria, while she watched for pleasure. (I literally feel like I need to take a shower after typing that. What the HELL.)
The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department in Santa Fe had received 5 phone calls regarding the Martens' household, mostly from Michelle herself. She met Fabian Gonzales on PlentyOfFish about a month before the murder of Victoria. Jessica Kelley, Gonzales' cousin, was released from prison 4 days before the murder.
At around 10 PM on August 23, witnesses saw Jessica carrying Victoria into the apartment. Later that night, screams were heard from inside. At around 4:30 AM, Michelle and Fabian left the apartment and reported to neighbors that Jessica had attacked them with an iron. A 911 call as placed. (Of note: All 3 adults present were regular methamphetamine users.)
The police arrived and entered the apartment building, where they saw smoke coming from the bathroom. They opened the door, and found the most horrifying sight imaginable: the dismembered remains of Victoria Martens, partially wrapped in a blanket that had been set on fire. She was pronounced dead on the scene.
Victoria had been raped, strangled to death, stabbed, and then dismembered and set on fire. According to her mother, she was given alcohol and methamphetamine so she could calm down "so Fabian and Jessica could have sex with her". It was determined that she had been killed between 7:45 and 8:30 PM the night before, on her 10th birthday. The autopsy also revealed routine sexual abuse, and she had an STI at the time of her death.
I am sorry you are reading this. I did not know this story was going to be so horrific when I chose to write about it. Holy shit.
INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL
All 3 present adults were arrested and charged with Victoria's murder. They were held on $1 million cash-only bonds. It was determined that they would be tried in 3 separate criminal trials.
The suspects have all plead not guilty. On August 14, 2017, the Judge decided Michelle would be tried first on July 30, 2018. Gonzales would come next in October of 2018, and Kelley would go last in January of 2019.
On June 29, 2018, the day before her trial was to start, Michelle Martens accepted a plea bargain for child abuse resulting in death. Her lawyer, Raul Torrez, also announced that a 4th unidentified male suspect was arrested in relation to the death. According to the lawyer, the timeline of events, according to witnesses, proved that Martens and Gonzales were not present at the time of the murder or rape. Though many of the charges against Gonzales were dropped, he still faces charges including child abuse and tampering with evidence.
It is believed that Michelle Martens may have falsely confessed. "It was completely made up," legal expert John Day told a news source. He said that the police had investigated the story based on what Michelle had told them, but it was a dead end. Michelle will still face up to 15 years behind bars
Cell phone and witness evidence suggest that the horrific couple were out buying drugs, leaving Jessica, who had just been released from prison 4 days prior, to watch the child. While babysitting, an unknown male came in and raped and murdered Victoria, and then removed her body from the apartment. When Michelle came back, she didn't ask where her daughter was, and claimed she had know knowledge that she wasn't there until hours later, then Jessica brought her body back inside. Then, she attacked Michelle and Gonzales and set the child on fire, trying to flee when the police responded to the 911 call.
Jessica claims that Gonzales dismembered the child. She plead no contest for the 6 charges brought against her, and will spend 25 years in prison for her involvement.
Gonzales is the only one who will stand trial in his case, and his own cousin will testify against him. The case has been on hold, as the lawyers battle out what elements of his criminal history can and can't be used in the trial.
While awaiting trial, Gonzales will walk free, as his attorneys insist that even though he dismembered a murdered child, he is no threat to the community.
SO WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT?
Originally, though absolutely evil and horrifying, the case was fairly cut and dry. 3 people who did a lot of drugs and regularly abused this child did what they did, and killed her either accidentally or intentionally. They fought, called the police, the child is found. Mom confesses. It is disturbing and terrible, but easy to prosecute. It wouldn't be the first time drugged out monsters murdered a child.
But once it was determined that Michelle Martens had lied, and that the evidence didn't line up with all 3 people being present at the scene of the murder... it gets a lot more confusing.
First of all, why did Michelle confess? Honestly, I still think much of what she said was probably true. Victoria has a BAC of .02, and had signs of serial sexual assault. I definitely do not believe her mother was lying about finding men to rape her daughter, or drugging her so her boyfriend could assault her. I think those things still happened that night. However, I just don't think she was present for the strangulation. Perhaps after Michelle watched as her boyfriend and cousin assaulted her daughter, they left, as the evidence proves, and then Jessica just decided to murder her. I think her confession was mostly true, she just didn't witness the death.
I think this explanation makes a lot more sense. Originally, I was thinking... why would someone attack someone else with an iron, which could result in the police being called, after they had just committed a murder together? Wouldn't that alert the police to the crime? But as one Reddit user points out, everything makes more sense when Jessica is the killer. They all go to bed, and Jessica sets the child's body on fire to get rid of evidence. Then, she tries to attack Michelle and Gonzales so they wouldn't wake up while she disposed of the body, but it didn't work. When 911 is called, she jumps off of the balcony and tries to run, but is caught.
Michelle and Jessica are both behind bars from their plea bargains. Gonzales is still awaiting his trial. I hope all 3 of them rot behind bars forever. Even if Michelle Martens didn't strangle her daughter, her inability to provide a safe environment for her child resulted in her death. And I hope with my entire heart that she was also lying about pimping her daughter out, but the STD and BAC found at her death make me believe that portion of the confession was true. But, maybe not. Hopefully not.
This case is horrific and terrible in every single imaginable way. The image of Victoria at the top of this article is so sweet and beautiful and it breaks my heart that her life was cut short on her 10th birthday at the hands of at least one monster, assisted by her own mother who failed to protect her.
Yesterday, Victoria Martens would have turned 14. But because on her 10th birthday instead of having a party and opening presents and blowing out candles she was getting assaulted and murdered by the company her own mother kept, it was the 4th year in a row she didn't get to celebrate a birthday. She never will.
I am disgusted by this case, and my heart is broken for that sweet little girl. Rest in peace, Victoria Martens. I hope everyone involved never sees the outside of a jail cell again.