The grandparents of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, the Albuquerque girl who was raped, murdered and mutilated last year, have filed a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department. The civil suit alleges that Victoria Martens’ death could have been prevented had APD followed up on a referral from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department in March 2016.
“I do believe it is a very strong case. You have to understand there is a theory, the legal word is ‘cause of action,’ where they follow up—and they didn’t do that,” defense attorney Robert Gorence said in an interview Sept. 12.
Representatives at CYFD claim that Michelle Martens had broken up with her boyfriend that had attempted the alleged kiss on Victoria.
“When we get more answers, then we can get started with the exchange of information and can take sworn statements from potential witnesses,” said Gorence.
Court documents that the city recently filed claimed that a nurse had informed APD about the alleged kiss, instead of family members that had known.
According to APD an attempted kiss is not a crime, therefore no investigation was needed.
On September 15th a list of potential witnesses for the trial was released with nearly 100 names on it. Most of the names on the list were cops and neighbors of the Martens.
The death of Victoria Martens was discovered by APD in August 2016. In the criminal case now making its way to trial, police say the girl was drugged, raped and violently murdered on the night of her tenth birthday. In addition, her body had been set on fire and was found in her home bathtub. There are three defendants in the criminal case including Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, who allegedly was a willing participant in the act carried out by her alleged boyfriend Fabian Gonzales and his cousin Jessica Kelley. Michelle lost custody of her son, and, Victoria’s brother, who now lives with his father, Jason Oetting.
In the ensuing investigation, it was found that the state CYFD had previous contact with the Martens five months before the murder. Michelle’s previous boyfriend was accused of kissing 10-year-old Victoria five months before her death.
Paul Skotchdopole of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency said the result of the investigation into the previous contact was that an APD officer lied to the media saying the alleged kiss was investigated, when in fact it was never followed through with. APD had to retract the statement and punished a communication officer for it.
Some local attorneys are debating the merits of the civil case filed by the grandparents.
Criminal defense lawyer Ousama Rasheed of Rasheed & Associates, says the suit doesn’t prove that Victoria’s death could have been prevented.
“I do not think that the case will resolve in their favor,” Rasheed said.
But Rasheed also said some good can come from the civil action. He credits Bowles, Gorrence and Sanchez for filing the civil suit for the right reasons — raising awareness to prevent cases like this in the future.
“There are lawyers who want to bring about social change,” Rasheed said. “If they make a big deal about Victoria Marten’s case not being investigated, then APD is not going to make that mistake again, you would hope, in the future.”
Rasheed also said the case could benefit Victoria’s half brother because, if it is successful, he would be entitled to any monetary payout for pain and suffering.
“What people don’t understand is the grandparents get nothing out of this,” Gorence said.
The civil lawsuit has been moved to federal court and is awaiting trial.