ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly six years after the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, a jury is finally expected to hear arguments in the case against Fabian Gonzales starting Wednesday. The third of three known suspects in one of Albuquerque’s most horrific crimes, Gonzales is facing trial for a single charge of reckless child abuse resulting in death and several evidence tampering related charges.
Jury selection in the high-profile case began Monday, July 11. Opening statements are expected to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The case could take as long as three weeks to argue in an Albuquerque courtroom before a jury decides Gonzales’ fate.
Since Victoria’s death in August 2016, the case against Gonzales, 37, and two other defendants has taken several turns. Here’s a detailed recap of how the case has played out through the years.
The initial allegations in Victoria’s murder
Victoria Martens was killed in the evening of August 23, 2016. Following her death, three people were arrested in the case: Victoria’s mother Michelle Martens; Michelle’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales; and Fabian’s cousin Jessica Kelley.
According to court filings, Victoria and her mom Michelle had been living in an apartment near Irving Boulevard and Golf Course Road. Gonzales moved into the apartment in August 2016, a month after he met Michelle on a dating website. Kelley was released from prison on August 15, 2016, then moved into the apartment on August 18, less than a week before Victoria’s death.
Police were called to the Martens home around 4:30 a.m. on August 24, 2016. First responders found Victoria’s lifeless body in a bathtub, mutilated and on fire. Initially, Albuquerque Police alleged that three suspects injected the girl with drugs, raped, and killed Victoria, then tried to dispose of her body.
“You can’t train yourself to walk into this situation,” then-APD Spokesman Officer Tanner Tixier said on the night the suspects were taken to jail. “They injected the little girl with methamphetamines to make her calm down so they could do what they wanted to with this little girl.
After their arrest, Martens, Gonzales and Kelley were all charged with murder among several other crimes. Those charges were brought by Albuquerque Police based mainly on a confession from Michelle Martens and statements by Fabian Gonzales.
DA in 2018: “Much of what has been reported about this case is simply not true”
Nearly two years after Victoria was killed, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced a major shift in the case during a news conference on June 29, 2018. Describing new evidence in the case, Torrez said in part, that “many of the key elements in Michelle Martens statement to police were false.”
“Much of what has been reported about this case is simply not true,” Torrez said in 2018. “Multiple eyewitness statements and extensive forensic analysis of cell phone location data confirm that neither Michelle Martens, nor Fabian Gonzales were present in the apartment at the time of the rape and murder.”
Torrez said while there is evidence that Martens “was sexually assaulted at or near the time of her death,” there is no physical evidence linking Fabian Gonzales to that crime. Torrez also said there is no independent forensic evidence that Michelle Martens knowingly permitted her daughter (Victoria) to be sexually assaulted” on the day of her death “or at any other time.”
Additionally, Torrez announced prosecutors new theory: that a fourth suspect in the case was at the Martens apartment. That fourth person, known as “John Doe,” is accused of raping and killing Victoria via strangulation. To this day, the fourth suspect remains unidentified.
“We have determined that at least one unidentified man was involved in this crime and never apprehended,” Torrez said in 2018. “I have today authorized the filing of a criminal information against the the unidentified male, who’s partial DNA profile was recovered from Victoria Martens body and who remains at large.”
Torrez took office in January 2017, roughly four months after the Martens case was opened. At the time, cell phone data and DNA evidence remained untested.
“Those two pieces of information together is what really brought us a sense that what everyone had assumed, in terms of taking Michelle Martens statement at face value couldn’t be assumed anymore,” Torrez explained in an interview with KRQE News 13, following the announcements in the case. “I think a lot of critical time was lost early in the investigation because people took Michelle Martens statement at face value when they shouldn’t have.”
Who killed Victoria Martens?
In the months following the announcement, prosecutors filed a statement of facts in September 2018, shedding light on how and why investigators believe Victoria was killed. The statement reaffirmed prosecutors belief that neither Martens nor Gonzales were at the home when Victoria was murdered.
The filing also alleged Gonzales has connections to a gang and was involved in a fight at a barbecue house party in the days before Victoria’s murder. According to prosecutors, two days after the fight and the night of Victoria’s murder, Kelley “feared that someone was going to ‘roll up’ on the apartment during Gonzales’ absence,” and that “she saw a car with two individuals repeatedly drive past the apartment.”
Prosecutors believe the unidentified fourth person entered the Martens apartment on August 23, 2016, when Michelle Martens and Fabian Gonzales weren’t home. The man is alleged to have went into Victoria’s room and killed her while Kelley was in the other room.
According to a court filing, prosecutors say “[John Doe] told Kelley that “Gonzales had ‘****** up’ and knew he had done so, and he instructed Kelley that she and Gonzales needed to clean up ‘the mess’ or she and her kids would be next.”
The current case against Fabian Gonzales
Today, Gonzales is facing ten charges. The most serious, reckless abuse of a child resulting in death, is a first degree felony.
While prosecutors don’t believe Gonzales was present at northwest Albuquerque apartment when Victoria was killed, they may argue that Gonzales’ actions helped lead to Victoria’s death. According to a court filing from defense attorneys, “prosecutors argued that Mr. Gonzales is charged with ‘child abuse by endangerment’ by ‘exposing [Victoria] to a substantial risk of harm.”
It’s unclear exactly what prosecutors will argue in Gonzales’ case, but there are some indications that arguments could center around what was presented in Michelle Martens’ case. Prosecutors argued that Michelle Martens was negligent because she knowingly left Victoria at their apartment with Jessica Kelley, even though they knew Kelley was high on meth and had an extensive criminal record to include convictions for drug trafficking, and conspiracy to commit criminal sexual penetration.
According to the statement of facts filed by prosecutors in September 2018, Gonzales “provided food for Victoria and took more responsibility for her care than Martens.” The same document claims Gonzales and Martens left Victoria with Jessica Kelley at the apartment multiple times on the night Victoria was killed.
Gonzales is also facing eight counts of tampering with evidence, and one count of conspiracy to commit evidence tampering. According to court documents, those charges are tied to actions Gonzales allegedly took after Victoria’s death. Gonzales is accused of dismembering parts of Victoria’s body, hiding and washing clothing and bedding, washing knives and hiding an iron.
Michelle Martens & Jessica Kelley
On June 29, 2018, Victoria’s mom, Michelle Martens pleaded guilty to reckless child abuse resulting in death. According to a sentencing agreement filed in court, Martens, who turns 41 in July, is expected to be sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison.
Martens has yet to be sentenced. She is expected to testify against Gonzales in his trial.
Martens plea agreement was announced on the day District Attorney Torrez announced new evidence in the case. Speaking of the case following a hearing on the plea agreement, Martens attorney Gary Mitchell explained Michelle Martens demeanor in reference to the initial “confession” in the case.
“It became patently obvious to us that this was a statement made that had many many false admissions to it,” Mitchell said, speaking of Martens initial confessions. “Simply because she was trying to please the people that were questioning her, she’s that way all her life, it’s just her nature.”
Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, 37, also took a plea deal in the case. In January 2019, Kelley pleaded no contest to reckless child abuse resulting in death, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit evidence tampering, and three counts of evidence tampering.
In April 2022, Kelley was sentenced to 44 years in prison. She has also agreed to testify against Gonzales in his trial.