Relatives of an Albuquerque woman whose 10-year-old daughter was drugged, raped, killed and dismembered in the mother's apartment last week are mystified over how she got involved with two convicted criminals accused with her of causing the girl's death, the family spokeswoman for the child's relatives said Monday.
Laura Bobbs lived in the same apartment complex as the girl's mother, Michelle Martens, for five years and said she and Martens' parents saw the mother daily but never picked up clues of anything amiss.
They were also unaware she had been dating the boyfriend convicted of child endangerment for a month before the killing and letting his cousin stay at the apartment just after the cousin was released from prison.
Martens, Fabian Gonzales and his cousin Jessica Kelley are all jailed for lack of $1 million bail, facing charges of child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in connection with the Aug. 24 killing of Victoria Martens.
She was found dead by police in the apartment the day she was to celebrate her 10th birthday, with authorities saying her remains had been wrapped in a blanket and set on fire in a bathtub.
At the grandparents' first appearance Monday in public following Victoria's death, Bobbs thanks Albuquerque residents on their behalf for an outpouring of prayers and support.
The grandparents and other relatives did not speak to reporters but clutched each other and some cried while wearing buttons made from a smiling photo of Victoria adorned in purple, her favorite color.
Bobbs said in an interview later that Martens was a hard-working single mother and that she and Martens' parents did not know she had gotten mixed up with Gonzales and Kelley.
"We can't tell you where this came from," Bobbs said.
Bobbs thanked Albuquerque residents on behalf of the grandparents and other relatives for an outpouring of support and prayers.
New Mexico officials have said they never received any reports of violent or sexual abuse about the household where Victoria lived with her mother.
Gonzales had been convicted of child endangerment last year, was supposed to be monitored by a probation officer and given drug tests but never was because corrections officials say they never received a judge's order mandating the supervised probation. Martens told detectives she knew Kelley had been released from jail and let her stay in the apartment.
Court records show Kelley had a prior conviction on a felony rape charge 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.
Bobbs said Victoria's killing is an example for New Mexico state officials that they must to do more to prevent what has turned into a horrific string of children killed by relatives or people close to them in recent years.
"This family shouldn't be standing behind me grieving," Bobbs said. "Let's put our children first. They are our future."
Martens told detectives that Gonzales injected her daughter with methamphetamine to calm her down before he raped her. Victoria was stabbed and choked before her dismemberment.
Bobbs and the grandparents saw Martens daily but did not know she was going out with Gonzales and never saw signs that she might be using drugs or have them around her.
Neighbors described Victoria as a happy and outgoing child and Bobbs said she always appeared to be well cared for by her mother. Martens worked at a grocery store near the apartment complex with a community pool where the girl was often seen swimming.
KNBC affiliate KOB-TV reports officials will meet Tuesday to discuss possible solutions for better drug treatment, mental health services and child abuse prevention in the wake of Martens' death.
The meeting, organized by Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley and Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena, will also look for funds for more social workers and find ways for schools and law enforcement to work more closely to fight abuse.
Jessica Kelley was the last suspect in the horrific rape and killing to appear in court. She remained silent as she listened from jail via a video feed as Judge Chris Schultz read the charges, ordering the 31-year-old held on $1 million bond, as were Michelle Martens, 35, and her boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, 31.
Schultz said the incident demonstrated a level of depravity that was "unfathomable."
"I've been involved in the criminal law for over 30 years and this is the most inhumane case I think I've come across," Schultz said.
Kelley is Gonzales' cousin, and had been hospitalized for a broken leg, which she suffered while trying to flee police.