A complaint has been filed with the City’s Police Oversight Agency against APD’s public information officers Celina Espinoza and Fred Duran for providing false information to the news media and to the public about APD’s contact with nine (9) year old Victoria Martin and her family prior to the child’s brutal murder.
(See May 31, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1 “Oversight board investigating complaint against APD; Incorrect info in Matens case at issue)
Victoria Martens is the nine (9) year old child that was drugged, raped, murdered, mutilated, dismembered and burned allegedly by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and his cousin.
The murder is one of the most heinous crimes in Albuquerque history of an innocent child, and the three (3) defendants are in custody pending a trial on multiple felony charges.
The complaint with the Police Oversight Board was filed by Jim Larson, a former law enforcement officer with the Dallas Police Department and the US Secret Service and someone who I know and worked with some years ago and who I respect.
Five months before the child was killed, the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) received a complaint that one of the mother’s boyfriends tried to kiss the child which at the very least merited consideration and looking into for possible assault on a child or even child abuse.
CYFD said it did not investigate the allegation because the boyfriend was not a relative and did not live in the child’s home but CYFD reported the complaint to APD and turned it over to APD.
Months before the murder, APD had a referral from the New Mexico Human Services Department alleging that the boyfriend of the mother was trying to kiss the 9-year-old child.
When you review the complaint filed by Jim Larson and listen to the audio clips between the Journal reporter and the two APD public information officers, you can glean six (6) major inconsistencies that some people would consider downright lies created out of whole cloth by the two APD public information officers.
(The audio clips are on the Journal online website at ABQJournal.com along with the story.)
FIRST: Public Information Officer (PIO) Celina Espinoza told the Albuquerque Journal reporter that APD had investigated the CYFD report which was not true and appears to be a total fabrication.
SECOND: Public Information Officer Fred Duran told the Journal reporter that APD detectives interviewed the child and her mother about the CYFD complaint. Specifically, Fred Duran said “Detectives went and talked to the family and that’s where we got the information that the mother had taken care of the situation by telling the boyfriend to leave and not come back.” Duran on the audio taped interview with the Journal reporter specifically says he was confident APD went out to the home, says he actually talked to the detectives and no reports were filed because no probable cause was found of a crime. The truth is APD detectives never went to the child’s home, never interviewed the child and never interviewed the mother because a written report would have been required if that happened and any statements given would have to be transcribed and attached to the written report as per APD standard operating procedures.
THIRD: When Fred Duran was asked specifically why APD Detectives made no police offense report about the investigation and interviews, which is required standard operating procedure policy on investigations, Duran said no report was made because making such a report would violate the child victim’s rights and amount to “police surveillance”. This is absolute nonsense. Interviews of potential victims and witnesses in a case by police is standard operating procedure in any criminal investigation and are not surveillance.
FOURTH: PIO Celina Espinoza contradicted PIO Fred Duran on her audio interview with the Journal by saying that no APD detectives went to the home and that they did not follow up on the CYFD complaint because APD policy dictates that APD officers only follow up on criminal allegations and that “a kiss in not a crime”. Espinoza also said there were no reports filed because there was no evidence of a crime. How would APD know if no crime was committed if APD Detectives never had contact or interviewed the child or the mother in the first place? At the very least an unwanted forced kiss by an adult of a child is and assault or battery.
FIFTH: When the Journal asked about the contradicting information, a conference call was set up with Espinoza, Duran and the Journal reporter. The Journal was told APD detectives did interview the family, the detective dealt with the reported kiss, but that they did not make any reports because there was no evidence of a crime. The Journal was told that the names of the detectives could not be released because they work on FBI high profile cases and releasing the detective’s names would jeopardize pending cases. In the audio recording, Espinoza opines that “attempted kissing” is not a crime and there was no evidence of criminal sexual penetration. Espinoza states that because there was no probable cause of a crime, no reports were required to be written by the detectives. Really? The arguments made smacks of a cover up in that police offense reports are public record, they contain the names of investigating officers, and the CYFD complaint had nothing to do with any federal charges.
SIXTH: PIO Espinoza says in the conference call “Everybody did everything they were suppose to” even though previously Espinoza had said APD detectives had not followed up on the complaint from CYFD.
So what is the truth and what are the lies coming from APD when it comes to Victoria Martens and the investigation of the CYFD complaint?
I agree 100% with Jim Larson when he says in his complaint “the public must be able to trust the police department to provide truthful and accurate information regarding actions taken or not taken by officers. … That trust was violated when the department provided false statements to the public regarding the actions or inactions of detectives”.
When you listen to the audio tapes from the APD Public Information Officers, you quickly understand why so many people do not trust APD and why it has a serious credibility problems with the community.
My hope is that the APD Police Oversight Board takes the Larson complaint serious and thoroughly instigates and acts.
Given the serious nature of the allegations that APD failed to provide accurate information, you would think our Mayor and our Chief of Police would hold someone accountable, but that would go against their own standard operating procedure and how they have conducted themselves during their entire tenure in office.
Both Berry and Eden just look the other way and say everything is just fine with APD and we are complying with the DOJ reforms.
What is tragic is that a child had to suffer and her life was taken in such a brutal manner when she possibly could have been saved had the CYFD Department and APD been a little more vigilant and dedicated to doing their jobs.