By Chris Summers 1 November 2020
The hit TV drama Breaking Bad – which starred Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as methamphetamine manufacturers – was set in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
It ended in 2013 after a series of grisly plotlines but the series creator, Vincent Gilligan, could never have dreamed up the real-life drama which played out in the broiling hot summer of 2016.
It was Victoria Martens’ 10th birthday on 23 August 2016.
But instead of opening presents, eating festive cake and being showered with love by adoring parents, her birthday was horrific but what exactly happened and why remains, to a degree, a mystery.
When police, responding to a 911 call, arrived at 4.30am at her mother’s apartment in Albuquerque they found Victoria’s dismembered remains wrapped in a smoking blanket in the bathtub.
Detectives arrested her mother – Michelle Martens, 35, her 31-year-old boyfriend Fabian Gonzales and her cousin Jessica Kelley, 31. All three were addicts whose mugshots showed the physical damage wrought by years of use of methamphetamines, known as meth.
When interrogated by police Michelle came out with an extraordinary confession – she said she had watched as Victoria was injected with meth, sexually assaulted by Gonzales, strangled and then stabbed to death by Gonzales and Kelley and dismembered.
Michelle said she enjoyed watching her daughter being raped and had sex with Gonzales 20 minutes later. She said she had only met Gonzales – on the online dating site Plentyoffish – a month earlier.
But the case was turned on its head in July 2018 by the result of tests on DNA found on Victoria’s body.
It was from an unknown male and when Michelle Martens and her cousin were further questioned they revealed a totally different story to what had happened to Victoria.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez revealed Michelle and Gonzalez were not even in the apartment when Victoria was killed.
Kelley revealed in court what had really happened on the fateful night.
She said she had been left to babysit Victoria while her cousin and Gonzales went out around 7pm.
Kelley, who admitted she had been high on meth, said a smartly-dressed man had come to the door and she had simply let him in, unaware of his intentions.
Detectives said they now believed the man sexually assaulted and killed Victoria to get back at Gonzales, who had threatened to kill a woman after being beaten up at a barbecue.
Kelley said she remembered the smartly-dressed man had asked for Gonzales, a member of the Thugs Causing Kaos (TCK) gang, using his street name – Favo – before he entered the apartment.
When Gonzales and Michelle returned around 9pm and discovered Victoria’s body they decided to dismember her.
Why Michelle chose to embroider the story by saying her boyfriend had raped Victoria remains a mystery but an autopsy showed the little girl had human papillomavirus (HPV) at the time of her death, suggesting she had been sexually abused by someone in the months before her death.
In the summer of 2018 Michelle Martens made a plea bargain, admitting one count of child abuse resulting in death and receiving a jail sentence of 12-15 years.
Torrez then announced nine of the charges against Fabian Gonzales including second-degree murder and criminal sexual penetration were dropped.
In January 2019 Kelley pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly caused resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault and was jailed for 50 years
In November 2019 Gonzales – who was still awaiting trial for child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence – was even released on bail.
As of 1 November 2020 Gonzales is still awaiting a trial, which has been delayed pending a ruling by the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
Prosecutors are still hunting the unidentified man – dubbed ‘John Doe’ – for killing Victoria.