ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — The grandparents of a 10-year-old girl sued Albuquerque this week, accusing it of failing to investigate the child’s mother, her boyfriend and his cousin, who are charged with first-degree murder: physically and sexually assaulting the girl until she died.
Victoria Martens, a fourth-grader, died on Aug. 26, 2016, after being raped, suffocated, stabbed and dismembered by her mother, Michelle Martens, and two friends: Martens’ boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, and Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, according to criminal charges against the three.
They also are accused of wrapping Victoria’s mutilated body in a towel and burning it in a bathtub at Martens’ Albuquerque apartment. Police arrived after receiving multiple 911 calls from neighbors who heard screaming.
Martens and her boyfriend approached a neighbor for help after accusing Kelley of beating them with an iron.
All three have been charged with first-degree murder, child abuse, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
John Martens and Pat Martens, Victoria’s grandparents, sued the city for wrongful death on Tuesday, claiming its police department violated the New Mexico Children’s Code when they failed to help Victoria despite receiving a report about her mother’s behavior.
“The abuse suffered by Victoria was reported to the City well before the brutal maiming and sexual violence that killed her on August 24, 2016,” according to the complaint in Bernalillo County Court.
The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department received a report on March 28, 2016 that one of Martens’ boyfriends had tried to kiss Victoria. The department referred the report to the Albuquerque Police Department, “where APD individual defendants made the decision to not investigate the complaint regarding Michelle Martens’ boyfriend,” according to the complaint.
The grandparents say the officers were improperly trained to deal with such a situation, and “wrongly believed that a warrant and probable cause were required to investigate the complaint.”
Police Department spokesman Fred Duran told the Albuquerque Journal in January this year that investigators had met with the girl and her mother, “but did not take action because no crime had been committed.”
The grandparents disagree.
“Officer Fred Duran also attempted to cover up the fact that the city failed to comply with the law by perpetuating the falsehood that no reports were made in order to protect the privacy of the child,” the complaint states.
The grandparents say Duran had been “correctly briefed on the information concerning the CYFD [Children, Youth and Families Department] complaint of sexual violence regarding Michelle Martens’ boyfriend a month earlier.”
The Albuquerque Police Department has been under federal investigation for years for widespread use of excessive force, including officer-involved killings.
The Martens seek punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, civil rights violations, loss of consortium, and an injunction ordering the Albuquerque Police Department to respond within 24 hours “to any CYFD referral involving a minor child.”
They are represented by Robert Gorence with Gorence and Oliveros in Albuquerque, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Martens, Gonzales and Kelley will be tried separately next year. Second Judicial District Court Judge Charles Brown set Martens’ trial date first, July 29, 2018.
Representatives for the city of Albuquerque did not immediately respond to a request for comment.