ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Newly released documents reveal exactly why the Children Youth and Families Department was called to check on Victoria Martens and her brother months before Victoria’s murder.
“We did do multiple interviews,” CYFD Secretary, Monique Jacobson, told KRQE News 13.
Five months after the brutal murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, Jacobson can finally be more frank about her agency’s previous involvement with Victoria.
CYFD released a summary of its investigation into Victoria Martens’ case, detailing the agency’s interactions with the child. It also released its internal review summary of how case workers and staff handled the case.
“What was determined during this review is that we did follow all state statute, agency policies and procedures,” Secretary Jacobson said Friday.
Victoria’s mom, Michelle Martens, boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin, Jessica Kelley are each facing charges for her murder.
An autopsy revealed Victoria was strangled, her body dismembered. It also found alcohol in her system and evidence she was sexually abused in the past.
But did CYFD workers know enough about any abuse before her death?
“We did not find proof that physical abuse or even neglect occurred,” said Jacobson.
According to its report, CYFD case workers had contact with Victoria on at least four prior occasions.
In March 2015, CYFD got a call that “Victoria and her sibling had poor hygiene, had dirty clothes, that a grandparent had improperly disciplined the sibling, and that Michelle Martens and the grandparent had consumed alcohol in front of the children.”
“There were no allegations of physical abuse regarding Victoria and no allegations of sexual abuse regarding either child,” the report states.
Both kids were interviewed separately at school by a CYFD case worker.
However, a case worker stated, “Neither child had any marks, bruises or evidence of physical abuse. Both children were clean and appeared well taken care of.”
“The allegations were unsubstantiated against Michelle Martens, the grandparent, and the siblings’ biological father,” the report states.
Three more calls came into CYFD in May and June of 2016 referencing Victoria’s brother. Two of those calls Michelle Martens made herself, claiming Victoria’s brother was left with an unknown caretaker by her ex.
Both children were interviewed again by CYFD at school and at home.
“Our internal review showed that the interviews were done in a comprehensive manner, that questions were asked about physical abuse and sexual abuse even though none of the allegations that we received were of that nature,” Jacobson explained.
A fifth anonymous call came into CYFD on March 28, 2016. However, the agency said it had no jurisdiction to investigate that report further.
In that call, the tipster claimed an ex-boyfriend of Michelle Martens tried to kiss Victoria. But since he wasn’t a parent, guardian or custodian living in her home, CYFD staff said it referred the call to the Albuquerque Police Department.
An APD spokesperson told KRQE News 13 since there were no criminal allegations, there was nothing for officers to investigate at the time.
Although her staff followed protocol, Jacobson said her agency is working to improve outreach, and boost staff.
CYFD is also looking to develop curriculum with schools statewide, so kids know what to do if they’re being abused.
“As unbelievable as this may sound to many of us, there are instances where children are experiencing horrible abuse and they don’t know it’s abuse,” said Jacobson.
“If the person you trust most in life is telling you something is okay and it’s normal, and if it’s all you’ve ever known in your life, you may not understand that it actually is horrific abuse,” she added.
The ultimate goal is to protect kids and prevent another tragedy.
When asked if CYFD failed Victoria at all, Jacobson responded, “I think when a child dies it’s not okay for anyone. It’s not okay for me, it’s not okay for my workers, it’s not okay for the community.”
“But what our internal review showed is that we did everything in the manner we should have,” Jacobson added.
CYFD plans to bring back school liaisons statewide, so school staff can have a clear point-of-contact to report abuse.
Jacobson said the agency has added 25 percent more staff in the last two years, but it still needs field workers.
CYFD is hosting a rapid-hire job fair next Saturday January 28th at the CYFD office 3401 Pan American Freeway NE in Albuquerque from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, click here.