ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three suspects charged in the horrific killing and rape of a 10-year-old New Mexico girl will stand trial next October, a judge in the case ruled Friday.
Fabian Gonzales, Jessica Kelley and the victim’s mother, Michelle Martens, will begin their cases Oct. 2, 2017, in the death of Victoria Martens, unless they later decide to have separate trials, Albuquerque District Court Judge Charles Brown said. All three are charged with first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sex penetration of a child under 13 in connection with the girl’s killing.
Police found the girl’s dismembered body inside the apartment she shared with her mother on the day she was expected to celebrate her 10th birthday. Authorities saying her remains had been wrapped in a blanket and set on fire in a bathtub.
The slaying ignited outcry and vigils, and helped renew a call from new Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to reinstate the death penalty.
Michelle Martens told police she looked for men online and at work to sexually assault her daughter, according to search warrants in the case. The documents showed Michelle Martens told police that she had set up encounters with at least three men before the girl was drugged, raped and killed in August.
Brown said Friday all three suspects could request separate trials at a status conference April 10, 2017.
All three suspects have pleaded not guilty.
New Mexico officials have said they never received any reports of violent or sexual abuse about the household where Victoria lived with her mother.
But Gonzales, who was dating Michelle Martens, was convicted of child endangerment last year after his arrest for beating a woman while she was driving a car with a child inside it.
Court records show Kelley had a prior conviction stemming from an incident while she was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in September 2012. She pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit criminal sexual penetration.