ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While Fabian Gonzales’ defense attorney grilled APD’s lead investigator on initial presumptions made in the Victoria Martens murder, a fingerprint expert called to the stand Friday told jurors Gonzales’ prints were found on a mop in the apartment where Victoria was killed. The testimony wrapped the second week of Gonzales’ trial in the 10-year-old girl’s 2016 murder.
Gonzales is facing one count of child abuse resulting in death, charged with leaving the girl in a dangerous situation that ultimately lead to her murder. He’s also facing seven counts evidence tampering and one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence related to acts he’s accused of committing, including dismembering and wrapping parts of Victoria’s body, hiding and washing clothing and bedding, and washing knives.
Prosecutors focused on Gonzales’ alleged evidence tampering in the second half of testimony Friday, calling a fingerprint expert to the stand. New Mexico Department of Public Safety Forensic Scientist Jeffrey Smith searched for fingerprint on more than 80 items in the case.
However, the prosecution discussed far fewer items in Smith’s testimony. According to Smith, Fabian Gonzales’ prints appeared on a mop handle and two DVDs. His prints were not found on the knives alleged to have dismember Victoria, a laundry basket or a plastic bag containing human remains.
A single finger print that was considered “suitable for comparison” was found on the laundry basket. However, Smith said he couldn’t positively identify who’s print it was. Gonzales’ print was “eliminated from comparison,” but Kelley’s could not be. Gonzales’ defense attorney Stephen Aarons emphasized that point in cross-examination.
But in prosecutors final line of questioning for Smith, Deputy District Attorney James Grayson asked Smith to reconsider how he would define the single finger print found on the orange laundry basket. “Would it be more accurate to say that Fabian Gonzales was eliminated from the one print that was suitable for comparison from the basket?” Grayson asked. “Yes sir,” Smith responded.
Implying the Gonzales took part in cleaning the scene, prosecutors also discussed Gonzales’ fingerprints on the mop, an item that has only been mentioned one other time in the trial. On the first day of trial, APD Detective Frank Pezzano spoke of collecting the mop as evidence because “there was evidence of clean-up.” APD’s lead detective on the case also described a smell of cleaning supplies at the crime scene during Thursday’s testimony.
Aarons appeared to dismiss the nature of the evidence in cross examination. “Do you know if the mop in the rear balcony or those movies, you don’t know if they have anything to do with this case, do you?” Smith responded, “I do not.”
A plastic bag tested for fingerprints revealed three prints identified as Jessica Kelley’s. Her prints were also found on numerous CD’s and DVD’s. During her testimony on the second day of trial, Kelley said she grabbed numerous discs before attempting to leave the scene of the crime.
Defense questions APD’s initial investigation
The Martens case detective, Sgt. Joshua Brown continued into his second day of testimony with cross-examination. Recounting APD’s initial investigation into the murder, defense attorney Stephen Aarons recited more than a dozen moments from a transcript of Gonzales’ eight-hour police interrogation on the day after Victoria’s murder.
Victoria was killed on August 23, 2016. Prosecutors claim the 10-year-old girl was strangled to death by an unknown man after she had been left in the care of Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley. Gonzales and Kelley are then said to have dismembered Victoria’s body in an attempt to conceal her death.
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.
Questioning Brown, Aarons tried to highlight the major differences in what investigators initially charged Gonzales with, and the charges he now faces. In 2018, prosecutors concluded Gonzales wasn’t home when Victoria was killed. In turn, Gonzales’ charges related to sexual assault and murder were dropped.
The initial allegations Gonzales faced were tied to a false confession from Michelle Martens. Aarons tried to highlight APD’s investigative tactics, questioning Brown Friday about his interview with Michelle Martens.
“Didn’t you introduce to Michelle, the notions that Jessica moved [Victoria’s] body, that she was in the bathroom, and that she was in the bathtub before she ever said any of those words?” Aarons said. “At some point, [Michelle] ran with those suggestions, didn’t she?” Brown agreed.
Prosecutors discussed in Brown’s testimony how Michelle Martens was later given a psychological review, looking into the initial statements she made about the crime. In 2018, Martens defense attorney Gary Mitchell said, “Michelle doesn’t function at the same level most [people] do,” and that it was “patently obvious” that her statement had “many false admission simply because she was trying to please the people that were questioning her.”
Resurfacing that point in trial today, Aarons questioned Brown, saying, ” so there’s a lot of information that [Michelle’s] given to suggest she knew what was going on, that was given by you, to her, is that true?” Brown said, “that is true.”
While Aarons tried to suggest APD’s investigation was flawed, during re-direct examination of Brown, prosecutors tried to highlight how the District Attorney’s Office changed the scope of the case as the evidence began to indicate that Michelle Martens initial confession, or statement was false.
“Did you have the benefit of four additional years of investigation before testifying [to the grand jury in the Martens case]?” Prosecutor James Grayson asked. “No,” Brown responded.
Prosecutors also attempted to highlight Fabian’s shifting story and lack of detail in his interviews with police. Brown noted a missing “gap of time” in Gonzales’ detailing of the timeline of events in the early morning hours of August 24, the day after Victoria was killed.
“It was towards quite a ways into the interview,” Brown said of Gonzales’ admission as to when he knew Victoria was dead. “That’s when he admitted, ‘okay, yeah I saw it, I should have done something about it but I was scared and that’s why I lied to you.'”
Brown also testified Friday that he had reason to believe Martens and Gonzales had rehearsed a story together before speaking to police. He also said that it was clear when he arrived on scene that extensive clean-up had taken place in the apartment, noting a smell of cleaning products.