The mother of Victoria Martens took a plea deal Friday, resulting in most of the charges against her being dropped.
The District Attorney Raul Torrez also revealed that another man, who is still out there, could be involved in Victoria’s murder, and most of what we thought we knew about this case may not be true.
Friday, Michelle Martens appeared before Judge Charles Brown. It was then announced she had reached a deal that would cut her sentence from possible life to as little as 12 years.
Martens pled guilty to just one of the 19 charges she faced – reckless child abuse resulting in death.
Both prosecutors and Martens’ attorney agreed her only crime was allowing her boyfriend’s cousin, Jessica Kelley – a convicted rapist and drug dealer – to watch over Victoria.
Prosecutors laid out evidence saying back in August 2016, Martens knew Kelley had just gotten out of prison and had a violent past.
“She was warned that se should remove Kelley from her home due to her unstable behavior,” prosecutors said.
Instead, the state says Martens continued to let Kelley stay at her apartment, and even asked Kelley to pick up Victoria from the bus stop after school on August 23, 2016.
Prosecutors say Martens got hom hours later and saw Kelley was high on meth, but again left her daughter with Kelley so she and Fabian Gonzales could go get marijuana.
It was during that window, prosecutors say Kelley and at least one other unknown person raped and strangled Victoria.
“Martens observed Kelley carrying Victoria down the apartment stairs unresponsive and wrapped in a blanket,” prosecutors said.
Yet, the state says the mother still failed to check on her daughter, who was dismembered later that night.
Nearly two years ago, the idea that Martens watched it all happen came from her interview with police, which both sides now say just wasn’t true.
“[Martens] has spent her life saying things to please people so if you ask her something, she’s going to respond in the way she thinks that you like. It’s always a difficult task when we deal with people of her IQ level,” defense attorney Gary Mitchell said.
As part of the plea deal, Michelle Martens agreed that she will testify in the trials of Fabian Gonzales and Jessica Kelley. She faces between 12-15 years in prison. The charge she pled to carries up to 18 years.
“I recognize that these revelations are not consistent with the public’s perception about what happened with Victoria, but I want to share this information with you in order to help the community understand,” DA Raul Torrez said.
DA reveals major twist in case
After that plea deal with Michelle Martens was announced, District Attorney Raul Torrez held a news conference to explain the decision and he dropped a bombshell: They believe there was another man there when Victoria was killed.
“There is no physical evidence linking Fabian Gonzales to that specific crime and no independent forensic evidence that Michelle Martens knowingly permitted her daughter to be sexually assaulted on that day or at any other time,” Torrez said.
Torrez said he had a team review the case over the past year or so, with prosecutors, APD detectives and new experts. They found there’s no evidence Martens and Gonzales were home when Victoria was raped and murdered in the early evening of August 23, 2016 as investigators initially thought.
Torrez said they still believe Martens and Gonzales are guilty of child abuse for leaving Victoria in the care of Jessica Kelley, a convicted rapist and drug dealer.
Torrez then announced a huge twist in the case – tests showed it was not Fabian Gonzales’ DNA on Victoria’s body, rather the DNA belongs to an unidentified man.
This “John Doe” is now facing 14 charges, including rape and first degree murder.
“Given the specific location of the unknown male DNA on her body we have determined that at least one unidentified man was involved in this crime and never apprehended,” Torrez said.
Torrez announced that many of Gonzales’ charges have also been dropped, including murder and rape. He’s still looking at reckless child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence, and up to 18 years behind bars.
Investigators still believe Gonzales tried to clean up the murder scene and helped dismember Victoria’s body to dispose of it.
Torrez did not say if they have a plea deal in the works with Fabian Gonzales. His trial is set for mid-October.
The DA essentially said there were major holes and mistakes in the case APD handed his office. After the DA’s news conference, APD released the following statement:
This is one of the most horrific crimes our community has faced. APD has devoted some of our most experienced detectives to the investigation and they have been instrumental this year in unraveling the misleading statements Michelle Martens made initially. Our department is working closely with the District Attorney and our federal partners on the investigation to ensure it results in true justice on behalf of Victoria Martens. If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers at 843-STOP.
– Gilbert Gallegos, Director of Communications
At this point, Kelley is still facing all 23 counts against her. Gonzales and Martens have always pointed the finger at her.
Kelley’s trial is scheduled for January.
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