ABQ Reports: Injustice For All: APD Homicide Unit’s Legacy of Shame
July 2, 2018
By Dennis Domrzalski and Dan Klein
The past and present leadership of the Albuquerque Police Homicide Unit are an embarrassment to the citizens of Albuquerque.
Over the past 13 years the unit has amassed a legacy of shame that should shock, disgust and outrage everyone – liberals, conservatives, just everybody – who believes in one of the most basic tenets of human liberty: that innocent people should not be charged with crimes they didn’t commit and that they shouldn’t sit in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.
In those 13 years APD’s homicide unit has complied a shameful legacy of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations dead wrong and letting innocent people rot in jail.
The latest bombshell in this shameful legacy came last Friday when Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said he was dropping murder charges against Fabian Gonzales and Michelle Martens in the horrific 2016 killing and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.
Torrez said witnesses and cell phone technology prove that Michelle Martens and Gonzales were not home at the time Victoria was murdered! Torrez went on to say that Martens has a very low IQ (sound familiar) and that her confession was just a repeating of what APD homicide detectives were telling her.
And then Torrez dropped an absolute nuke on the community and on APD: There is DNA from another person at the murder scene. DNA that does not match anyone in custody. When did Torrez and APD know this? When did the defense know this?
Who figured all this out (APD? DA? or defense attorneys?) When were the defense attorneys made aware? It is suspicious that the charges were dropped just a ten days before Martens was due to go on trial. And why wasn’t the public told of this when the DA first discovered it?
That we weren’t told until Friday shows that everyone in Albuquerque is in danger of being charged with a crime they didn’t commit. In danger because APD’s homicide unit is inept or corrupt, and in danger because the county’s top prosecutor didn’t think anybody needed to know about the inept/corrupt investigation into the Martens case until just days before she was to go on trial.
Two years and just days before trial, before the DA thought to tell the citizens that APD Homicide had gone the wrong direction. Down a rabbit hole of their own making. Management of the APD Homicide Unit was completely absent.
But as we’ve said, APD has a history of ignoring basic human rights. Here are a few cases from not-so-distant past:
– 2005 to 2008 Robert Gonzales, a mentally retarded young man was arrested by APD and charged with the rape / murder of an 11 year old neighbor. Weeks after the arrest DNA evidence confirmed Gonzales was not the offender. Yet APD Homicide and the Bernalillo County DA never turned this evidence over to the court and defense attorneys. Only after Gonzales spent 965 days in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and and only after he was released by the judge was the DNA evidence was exposed. Along with this came the announcement that Gonzales confession was simply him repeating facts that the APD homicide detectives had fed him during the interview. The NM State Supreme court fined the DA $45,000 and in a civil case Gonzales won over a million dollars from Albuquerque taxpayers.
– 2007 to 2011, Michael Lee and Travis Rowley, young men in Albuquerque working as a group of salesmen, were arrested and charged with the murders and rape of an elderly Korean couple. Both Lee and Rowley had below normal IQs. Lee confessed to the murders, Rowley did not. Shortly after the arrests, DNA evidence excluded both men and confirmed that Albuquerque serial killer, Clifton Bloomfield was the offender. Bloomfield subsequently confessed. Yet APD and the DA kept both men locked up for over a year, convinced that they had something to do with the murders even though DNA excluded them and even though the confession was once again found that Lee was just repeating what APD Homicide detectives were telling him. Yes, the city paid out $950,000 to settle with Lee.
– 2015 o 2016, Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maes are wrongly arrested for the murder of Jaydon Chavez Silver. They spent10 months in jail before the Bernalillo County DA reviewed the entire case sent to them by APD Homicide, finding that there was not evidence that Cruz and Maez were involved. APD Homicide is alleged to have fed witnesses information for them to repeat in interviews, threaten witnesses to provide false information.
– 2016 to 2018 Victoria Martens, APD Chief Gorden Eden, his PIO Celina Espinoza and APD Officer Fred Duran, knowingly lied to the public regarding a CYFD call five months before Victoria was murdered. The lies go so far as to put words in Victoria’s dead mouth, words she never spoke, simply to protect people at APD.
An investigation showed that Eden was briefed, and told APD never responded, but he allowed Espinoza and Duran to craft a house of cards lie that finally collapsed upon them in 2017. Eden also went before the TV cameras after Victoria was murdered to tell the public that there were no other other offenders no arrested. That was another big lie. Eden, Espinoza and Duran’s statements may ultimately put APD on trial instead of Jessica Kelly. This did not have to happen, but when the chief of police and his staff knowingly lie they put everything at risk. All for the selfish reason of self-protection. Lying about Victoria Martens is sick.
– 2017 to 2018 This on the heels of APD, at first defending, destruction of DNA-soaked underwear of a 7-year-old girl who was being used as a prostitute by her parents! Wouldn’t we have liked to have that DNA to compare to this unknown DNA from Victoria! But APD tossed it out and a ridiculous bullshit reason. Now Geier and Keller have said they were misled, but were they? We know the outcome of CYFD investigation into this event, but so far APD has only reluctantly started an investigation. Is it just a dog and pony show to get the media and public to go away?
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier need to answer this question. After APD PIO Drobik contradicted what Geier and Keller said (when they reversed course) and Drobik doubled down that it was the right thing to do to destroy the DNA laden underwear, I have my doubts as to whether APD really thinks they did anything wrong. They have had plenty of time to finish their investigation, where is it?
And we haven’t even talked about APD and the DA not arresting people when they have video of them committing murders. The families of Jaquise Lewis and Earl Roybal are still waiting for justice that they will never receive because the criminal justice system in Albuquerque is a joke.
When DA Raul Torrez announced to Albuquerque citizens that “much of what has been reported about the brutal rape and murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens is simply not true!” he handed the defense attorney for Jessica Kelly their game plan.
But it wasn’t Torrez fault. He needed to come clean, although there are a lot of questions still, about the Martens case. In doing so it slapped the citizens in the face with something those in local law enforcement have known for over ten years. The APD Homicide unit is ill-trained, too young, and poorly led. Chief Geier should do a complete house cleaning from top to bottom. Get rid of any deputy chief of police who was in charge of Homicide during the last ten years. Yeah, that guy is still around and making over $100,000 per year.
Until Geier cleans out the crud in the Homicide unit, every one of you could find yourselves sitting in jail for a crime you didn’t commit, or watching your loved one murdered, shot in the back, and the assailant allowed to walk away free.
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier, what are you going to do? Double down and circle the wagons? Or clean house?