ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a COVID-positive test threatened to delay or stop Fabian Gonzales’ trial in the 2016 killing of Victoria Martens, proceedings continued Thursday with Gonzales appearing remotely. Meanwhile, his defense presented nearly its entire case as it ramps up to call Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens to the stand Friday.
Gonzales tested positive for COVID on Tuesday evening, leading to a full day’s delay while the court figured out a solution. While Gonzales was initially adamant about appearing for proceedings in person, on Thursday morning, the defendant opted to appear in court remotely, via video conference.
Gonzales is facing one count of reckless child abuse resulting in a death, seven counts of tampering with evidence and one count of conspiracy to tampering with evidence. Prosecutors argue that Gonzales put 10-year old Victoria in a dangerous situation that eventually lead to her death. Gonzales is also accused of helping his cousin, Jessica Kelley, dismember Victoria and clean the crime scene in an attempt to conceal the 10-year old girl’s death.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday after a brief re-direct examination of its 27th and final witness, former APD cold case detective Rich Lewis. In a last line of questioning, jurors heard evidence of Fabian Gonzales telling investigators that he washed his hands sometimes between Victoria’s death and dismemberment, and when he left the apartment after Jessica Kelley attacked him in his sleep.
In her last questions presenting the case to jurors, prosecutor Greer Staley asked Lewis who was in the apartment when Victoria was dismembered. “Based on everything in the investigation, I believe that Michelle Martens, Jessica Kelley and Fabian Gonzales [were in the apartment.]”
Defense calls Gonzales brother & cousin among seven witnesses
Refuting the prosecution’s assertion that Fabian Gonzales’ dangerous lifestyle lead to Victoria Martens death, defense attorneys Stephen Aarons and Hugh Dangler called seven witnesses to the stand Thursday. Several of the defendants relatives and former neighbors of Michelle and Victoria Martens offered some differing views, including Gonzales’ older brother.
Joseph Gonzales took the stand mid-morning in what was some of the most contentious testimony in the trial. Prosecutors have highlighted a BBQ party fight and threats following the fight as a possible situation that lead to Victoria’s murder.
Following the fight, cell phone records indicate Gonzales called his brother several times. Joseph Gonzales admitted Thursday that his brother contacted him. Prosecutors allege that Gonzales sought to return to the scene of the BBQ party fight with his brother.
On the stand Thursday, Joseph Gonzales downplayed the seriousness of the BBQ party fight, and had a different story about what Gonzales asked for. “What did you say about his proposal that you get involved?” Defense attorney Hugh Dangler asked.
“Negative. I told him they were just a waste of time– we’re not going to do that,” Gonzales responded. “What happened was unfortunate, but regardless, you’re not going to go back over there, no one’s going to go take it any further, it was a waste of time.”
Dangler later asked, “So your basic advice [to Fabian] was, ‘move on’?” Gonzales agreed, responding “Forget about it, what happened is unfortunate, what can you do, you’re not going to take it any further.”
Prosecutors believe an unknown man strangled Victoria to death two days after Gonzales’ BBQ party fight. Meanwhile, the defense argues that Fabian had nothing to do with Victoria’s death or the crime scene clean-up. It’s accusing Jessica Kelley of being the sole person responsible for killing and dismembering Victoria.
Defense attorneys asked Joseph Gonzales if he was ever in a gang or had gang ties. While he denied any connections, prosecutors tried to impeach Gonzales’ credibility during cross-examination with further questions about gang association.
Deputy District Attorney Greer Staley presented several photos of Gonzales with friends and family members. One photo show Gonzales standing next to a friend appearing to display a gang sign. A second photo showed Gonzales’ two brothers wearing the same red hat with a letter ‘C.’
“They were funny like that, they liked to color coordinate, you can see the plaid, red shorts as well,” Gonzales said. “They liked to wear red?” Staley asked. “They like red,” Gonzales responded.
“They like that C hat? Do you know why they would wear that hat?” Staley asked. “I just told you, they like to color coordinate,” Gonzales responded.
“So these aren’t gang hats?” Staley asked. “They’re hats,” Gonzales said. “These aren’t your brothers wearing gang hats?” Staley asked. Gonzales scoffed in response.
Gonzales’ cousin, Amanda Padilla also took the stand Thursday. Padilla hosted the BBQ party that ended in a fight between her and Gonzales. Padilla described how Gonzales showed up to the party uninvited, but was asked to leave.
After words were exchanged, Padilla and Gonzales threw punches during the fight, giving Fabian a black eye. Following the fight, Gonzales and Padilla traded text messages for three hours, in which Gonzales challenged Padilla to a subsequent fight.
Padilla in part, describe her cousin’s threats as “all talk,” something she didn’t take seriously. Defense attorney Hugh Danger asked Padilla, “From what you know, does that fight at the BBQ have anything to do with the death of Victoria?”
“No,” Padilla said. “It had ended that night.”
2nd Judicial District Court Judge Cindy Leos is overseeing the trial. Defense attorneys Stephen Aarons and Hugh Dangler are representing Gonzales in the case. The prosecution is being lead by Greer Staley and James Grayson, both of whom are deputy district attorneys with the Bernalillo County DA’s Office.