ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Accused in one of Albuquerque’s most horrific crimes, Fabian Gonzales faced a jury Wednesday for the beginning of a long-anticipate trial tied to the 2016 death of Victoria Martens. Gonzales is facing one count of reckless abuse of a child resulting in death and nine counts related to evidence tampering.
On the first day of testimony, prosecutors called the initial officer who responded to the crime scene and a detective that gathered evidence in the case. The day ended with the prosecution calling a key witness: Jessica Kelley, Fabian Gonzales’ cousin who the prosecution says was in the home when Victoria was killed.
A ten-year-old girl, Victoria Martens was killed in August 2016 in an apartment in northwest Albuquerque. Prosecutors says evidence shows the girl was sexually assaulted, then strangled to death. After her murder, prosecutors allege that Gonzales and Kelley dismembered Victoria’s body in an effort to hide the crime Meanwhile, Gonzales’ defense claims Kelley is solely responsible for Victoria’s death and mutilation.
Prosecutors claim Gonzales and Martens were out getting meth while Victoria was left alone on her birthday, with Kelley, when she was strangled by an unidentified man looking for Gonzales. The defense claims Kelley tried to dispose of the body alone while Gonzales and Victoria’s mother were asleep. Gonzales’ defense claims he and Michelle never even knew Victoria had been killed earlier in the evening.
In opening statements, Gonzales’ defense stated the same thing their client did as police walked him out from APD’s downtown headquarters in 2016: that Jessica Kelley is the killer.
“If truth be told, it wasn’t somebody who killed her as the prosecution said, it’s not a he but a she,” Gonzales’ Defense Attorney Stephen Aarons said. “Jessica Kelley killed Victoria.”
“Why did Jessica strangle Victoria?,” Aarons asked. “Were there signs of mental illness? Or did she take meth laced with bath salts?”
Prosecutors see it otherwise. They say Gonzales created a dangerous environment in that apartment.
“This case is about the defendant creating a danger that resulted in Victoria’s death and his participation in covering up that crime,” Prosecutor James Grayson said. “[Victoria] was at home with a virtual stranger, her safe place had become one of grave danger and her treasured birthday a terrible one.”
Grayson is a deputy district attorney for Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. He is arguing the case alongside another deputy district attorney, Greer Staley.
Prosecutors argue Gonzales had taken over Michelle Martens’s apartment and family. They say he made the decision to leave Victoria home with Kelley the night she was killed, while Gonzales and Martens were out getting meth. They say Gonzales’ DNA was found on knives and trash bags used to try and clean up the murder scene.
The defense says Gonzales thought Kelley was trying to get her life together and was good with kids, they also say Martens made the call to leave Victoria alone with Kelly, who they claim was on a meth binge. They maintained Gonzales’s claim that it was Kelley alone who strangled Victoria and not an unknown man trying to exact revenge on Gonzales as the state and Kelley allege.
The defense claims Gonzales did not help clean up the crime scene. They implied the unidentified DNA found on Victoria’s body could be from one of Kelley’s friends. The defense also told the jury that Kelley has every reason to lie after taking a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Gonzales.
Jessica Kelley takes the stand
By the end of the day, Kelley took the stand. Wheeled into the court in a chair, Kelley was emotion in the first moments she was questioned by Deputy DA Greer.
“You seem a little emotional. Is it hard to be here today?” Staley asked. Kelley responded, “Yeah,” breaking down into tears. “Why is it hard?” Greer asked. “That’s my cousin… Cause I grew up with him. I love him,” Kelley said.
Prosecutors had Kelley walk them through the first days after she got out of prison back in August 2016, the week before Victoria was killed. On the stand — Kelley quickly painted a picture of Gonzales being a bad influence on the family, describing how on Kelley’s first night out of prison, Michelle Martens and Victoria came to pick them up at the Downs Casino in Albuquerque at midnight.
“As I was talking and bout ready to get in the car Fabian was breaking into cars kind and a guard came up and told him something and I told him, ‘let’s just go, let’s get out of here, I just got out of prison, we can’t be doing this!'” Kelley said. Kelley will resume testimony on Tuesday morning.
Gonzales’ case represents the only trial of the three known suspects. Jessica Kelley, 37, is serving a 44-year sentence in a New Mexico prison after taking a plea deal in the case. Because Kelley pleaded to a non-violent offense, she could see as much as half of her 44 year sentence excused on “good time.”
Victoria’s mom, Michelle Martens is expected to be sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison after the conclusion of Gonzales’ trial. In 2018, Martens accepted a plea deal on a single charge of reckless child abuse resulting in death. She is also expected to testify in the case.