A last-minute plea deal was struck Monday by one of the suspects in the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.
Jessica Kelley has tried to take a plea deal in this case twice before, and Monday morning the judge accepted it right before her trial was expected to start.
Kelley is one of the three suspects charged with the killing of the 10-year-old in her northwest Albuquerque apartment in August 2016.
Monday, Kelley was emotionless in court as she pled no contest to child abuse resulting in death, aggravated assault, conspiracy and three tampering charges.
She faces up to 50 years in prison, but her attorney says that could be cut by more than half to 20 years and nine months because of credit for previous time served and if she earns good time.
Attorney Mark Earnest says even though the state filed a ‘nolle prosequi’ last week dismissing the alleged sexual assault of Victoria, he was concerned the media coverage of the case would taint the jury pool and lead to an unfair trial.
“That’s something that’s incredibly difficult to deal with in picking jurors who can be fair and impartial and so that was something we were definitely concerned with,” Earnest said.
Victoria’s mother, Michelle, pled guilty last year to intentional child abuse resulting in death.
Jessica Kelley has agreed to testify against the third person charged in this case so far, Fabian Gonzales. Kelley has also agreed to answer questions about a fourth suspect, that the District Attorney’s office only brought up two years after the murder.
Kelley had tried to plead twice before to similar charges. Both times she had tried to plead guilty. Judge Charles Brown rejected both those pleas stating there was not enough evidence that she was responsible for Victoria’s death.
Monday morning, she pled no contest, which carries the same sentence as a guilty plea, but Jessica Kelley doesn’t admit guilt, only that there was enough evidence to convict her. Kelley’s sentencing has not yet been set.
The District Attorney’s office will now focus on the third charged suspect in the case, Fabian Gonzales, and hopefully identifying the unnamed fourth suspect.
District Attorney Raul Torrez says Kelley’s plea is now an opportunity for him and his team, to finally sit down with Kelley and build his case against Gonzales.
“While it’s not perfect, it’s a pretty decent outcome given the limitations of what we have,” DA Raul Torrez said.
Torrez was tight-lipped when KRQE News 13 asked if Kelley had a bigger role in Marten’s death other than letting an unidentified fourth suspect into the apartment, where that suspect killed Martens.
“Again, I’m not going to comment on things we expect to be the subject of testimony in the upcoming trial, very mindful of the idea of the preservation of that evidence is something we talk about today,” Torrez said.
The District Attorney wouldn’t comment on if Kelley knows who the fourth suspect is, or what her testimony would be against Gonzales, but he added that it would all be heard in court.
Kelley’s cousin, Fabian Gonzales, still faces child abuse resulting in death charges. He was dating Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, at the time of the murder.
Torrez says Victoria Marten’s family is upset with the plea, but understands that it could help with convicting Gonzales.
Gonzales’ case is currently in appeals court with no date set for trial.
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