ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Detailing their final interactions with Victoria Martens and off-putting moments with the defendant, his cousin, and Victoria’s mom, five different neighbors took the stand Tuesday in the trial of Fabian Gonzales. The former boyfriend of Michelle Martens, Gonzales is facing one count of reckless child abuse resulting in death and multiple evidence tampering charges in the death of Victoria.
Several of the neighbors who shared stories Tuesday described their memories of Fabian Gonzales’ sudden appearance in Michelle Martens life. Gonzales, who met Martens on a dating website, had only been dating Martens for around a month before Victoria was killed.
“The biggest change [was] the noise,” Christina Torres testified. A stay-at-home mom in 2016, Torres used to live in the apartment next door to the Martens. “I just noticed that within, I want to say days, I don’t know if it was weeks, I’d always concentrate on my kids, [but] I noticed that there was a lot more traffic in and out of the apartment,” Torres said. “
Victoria was killed on August 23, 2016. Prosecutors allege the 10-year-old girl was strangled to death by an unknown man. Victoria’s mother’s boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin, Jessica Kelley, are then said to have attempted to conceal Victoria’s death by dismembering her body.
The defense argues that Fabian had nothing to do with Victoria’s death. It’s accusing Jessica Kelley of being the sole person responsible for killing and dismembering Victoria.
While none of the neighbors claimed to see an unknown man enter the Martens apartment, several noted the unusual behavior from all three defendants in the case in the hours surrounding Victoria’s death. Shortly after Victoria was killed, prosecutors say cell phone data shows Fabian and Michelle arrived home.
Several neighbors described seeing Martens and Gonzales arriving at the apartment complex, playing loud music in Michelle’s car. Torres, who described Michelle as someone who she never saw partying, appeared as if both Gonzales and Martens were intoxicated , she said.
“They were singing along to music, they had really loud music and they were just hanging out in the car,” Torres said, saying Michelle’s makeup appeared to be smudged, which she associated with partying. “I didn’t notice until I came around, and I saw Michelle. So I looked for her to say hi, she said hi to me, but she just.. she looked like I just thought maybe they were drinking and having a good time.”
Multiple neighbors also described Tuesday seeing Jessica Kelley carrying Victoria’s motionless body down the stairs of the upstairs apartment.
“Jessica came out of the apartment, holding who I know now as Victoria and she was wrapped in a blanket,” Torres said. “She came down to pretty much the little landing and then kind of stopped right there and then kind of turned around and went back.”
Fabian and Michelle’s call for help
A mother and daughter who lived in a different apartment building, a short distance from where the Martens lived, Charlene Benavidez and Myriah Bitah described waking up to the sound of pounding on their door in the early morning of August 24, before police arrived. Benavidez said she saw Gonzales and Martens downstairs, asking another neighbor for help after the mother and daughter didn’t answer their door immediately.
Bitah said, Fabian initially told the nextdoor neighbor, “Call the cops! Call the cops! Somebody’s after us!” She then described hearing Michelle tell Fabian that Jessica Kelley said Victoria was dead. “[Michelle] said, ‘[Jessica] said she killed my daughter.’ And she kept saying it. Michelle had blood coming down from her face, and as soon as I saw that I told my mom to call the cops.”
Bitah’s mother, Benavidez then opened the door to her apartment. She saw Gonzales and Martens emerge from the downstairs neighbor’s apartment, seeing Michelle wiping blood from her face.
“Michelle was sitting on a chair down the stairs in the approximate front door area of the patio, she kept asking for her phone, this was before the cops even got that,” Benavidez said. “I kind of went a quarter way down the first portion of the stairs, and I hung myself over because I was asking Michelle, I said, ‘where are your children?!’ and I kept begging her, please, ‘where are your kids?!’ and I kept asking her like five times.”
Months prior to the murder, Benavidez lived in an apartment above the Martens family. She described Victoria as like her “little buddy,” someone who would walk up the stairs with Benavidez, and someone who’d “tell you anything she could.”
Describing her last interactions with Michelle Martens before police got there, Benavidez said Martens “wouldn’t say anything.” “She didn’t have any reaction, she kind of looked like she looked right through me. I almost went downstairs to go to Michelle’s apartment, but my daughter stopped me, because I was so worried about the kids.”
Testimony ended early Tuesday with prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing other motions related to several witnesses. News cameras were also told not to show the faces of two witnesses Tuesday. KRQE News 13 is still awaiting an explanation from the court as to why.
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.