ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Trial dates have been set for the three people accused of murdering 10-year-old Victoria Martens, and the order of those trials is significant.
Michelle Martens will stand trial first in the murder of her 10-year-old daughter.
Martens, her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin Jessica Kelley, are all accused of raping and murdering the little girl last year in her northwest Albuquerque apartment.
In court Monday, the judge decided Martens will be tried first on July 29, 2018. Gonzales will be second in October of next year. Then, Kelley will go on trial in January 2019.
That trial order led to some debate in court Monday. Jessica Kelley thinks she’s getting a raw deal by going last.
The judge reminded the defense attorneys that once they moved to have the three tried separately, that gave prosecutors the right to decide on the order of those trials.
“If Ms. Kelley would go first that insider information about those two statements wouldn’t be publicly known,” Mark Earnest, Kelley’s attorney, said in court Monday.
While Kelley refused to speak to police after Victoria’s death in August 2016, Michelle Martens eventually confessed to letting Gonzales and Kelley sexually assault and murder her 10-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, Gonzales told Albuquerque Police that Kelley was the killer.
Prosecutors will also be able to use facts that come out in the first two trials against Kelley.
Martens’ high-profile defense attorney, Gary Mitchell, knows exactly why they want to try his client first.
“The real reason the state wants to try Michelle, if you can obtain a conviction of Michelle, it makes it easier on the rest,” Mitchell said.
The District Attorney’s Office did not delve into strategy, merely pointing out logistics.
“We’re anticipating that Ms. Martens’ case will be the most complicated and lengthy,” prosecutor Greer Rose said.
Judge Charles Brown agreed with the state and kept the trial order the same. The question was then raised about moving the Gonzales and Kelley trials out of Bernalillo County.
“With all the news coverage in this state…I’m not sure there’s any place…Everybody’s watched them,” Judge Brown said.
Michelle Martens’ attorney was asked after the hearing if there was a chance of a plea deal in the case. He said “no,” because the state won’t offer a reasonable agreement and they won’t accept an unreasonable one.
Next week marks one year since Victoria’s death. Her family says she had just celebrated her 10th birthday.