On September 14, 2018, State District Court Judge Charles Brown rejected a plea deal negotiated by Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez with Defendant Jessica Kelly in the shocking murder of 9-year-old Victoria Martens who was stabbed, murdered, dismember and her body burned in the bath tub of her home.
The rejected plea agreement would have required Jessica Kelley to testify at related trials of Defendant Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, and Defendant Fabian Gonzales, a boyfriend, and to provide statements to authorities.
Jessica Kelley would have faced 49½ years in prison.
At first blush, it appears like a good deal because of the time exposure, but as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”.
Retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein weighed in on the rejection of the plea and submitted the following guest analysis:
“When I read the story, as posted by KOB reporters, on Judge Charles Brown rejecting the Jessica Kelley plea agreement I had to wonder what “closure” were they hoping for? I wondered why didn’t these reporters do a little research to find out why the judge had rejected the plea agreement? It seems these reporters were taking sides and that the local news media is tired of Victoria Martens and just wants it all to end.
I have known Judge Charles Brown for probably 25 years or more. He handled several of my cases when I was an APD detective. He knows the law. When I watched him questioning Jessica Kelley and I read that she would be entering a plea bargain for Child Abuse, instead of agreeing to a murder charge, I knew there was a lot more to this story.
First, Brown, ethically, should never allow a defendant to plead to a charge that he believes does not match the crime. This was evident in his questions to Jessica Kelley regarding Child Abuse. Her response about being guilty because she let a unknown man (how convenient) into the apartment, doesn’t seem to fit Child Abuse.
Second, I researched the good time laws in New Mexico. Now I might have this wrong, but a conviction of Child Abuse does not necessarily mean a suspension of good time (https://law.justia.com/…/new…/2006/nmrc/jd_33-2-34-d129.html). So when the media says Kelley could be sentenced to 49 1/2 years in prison, could she potentially be out in 25 years with good time? These reporters should have asked that question. Is this something Judge Brown realized? Any judges or DA’s out there please give your opinion.
Third, I might be misreading the judge but it sure sounded to me like he thinks murder is the correct charge. If Kelley is going to plea to anything it should be at minimum murder. Which points out the hypocrisy with our media and DA. They continually bash the judges for being to lenient on criminals, but they are OK with Jessica Kelley not pleading guilty to murdering Victoria Martens? They are OK with Kelley stating that an unknown man killed Victoria. Who in their right mind would believe this bullshit? The media (editors at the Albuquerque Journal and the three news outlets) need to start focusing on factually reporting news, and stop trying to make news.
Fourth, DA Torrez seems hellbent to not lose the case against Fabian Gonzales. So hellbent that he is willing to allow the one person we do know was present during the time Victoria was viciously murdered, to plea to lesser crimes. All done with the false hope that Kelley will testify against Gonzales and provide some new information on the mystery man. It’s ridiculous. Torrez himself admitted earlier this year that the other defendant, Michelle Martens, is an idiot who will tell anyone in authority what she thinks they want to hear. Michelle is his other star witness against Gonzales. Why would anyone in their right mind believe Michelle Martens and Jessica Kelley? Torrez is trying to build a case against Gonzales with fools and liars.
Torrez is grasping at straws and he should stop. He did the right thing this summer in coming clean on how badly APD and the DA office screwed up this murder case. Sadly Torrez, it seems, doesn’t remember what he told the community at that press conference. If the thinks he can convict Gonzales based upon two admitted liars testimony (Michelle Martens and Jessica Kelley) he has lost his mind.
And that is what I believe Judge Charles Brown was thinking when he read this plea agreement. Jessica Kelley is the only defendant that you know was present at the scene of Victoria’s murder and you are going to let her plea to a charge less than murder? Remember, Fabian Gonzales gave a spontaneous statement to the media the night he was arrested. What did he say? “Jessica Kelley did it” ( https://www.koat.com/…/3-charged-in-death-of-10-yea…/4502452). So what makes Michelle Martens and Jessica Kelley any more trustworthy than Fabian Gonzales? Nothing. I believe that Judge Brown’s decades as a prosecutor and judge had him thinking the same thing. These three defendants are all liars. So why believe one over the other without any hard evidence?
DA Torrez answered that question when he stated that said he struggled with this and that it was decided they needed Jessica Kelley testimony against Gonzales to obtain a conviction on him and identify the unknown man. Well that blew up in court when Kelley repeatedly said she didn’t know who the man was. And remember this, Torrez already announced that Gonzales was not present during the time of the murder, but Kelley was there.
My own personal belief is DA Torrez is trying hard to do the right thing on a case that has been badly mismanaged from the beginning. It seems he is hell bent to try to identify the unknown man, that he is willing to make a deal with the devil to do so. That type of deal never, ever, works. Torrez already has a child abuse conviction on Michelle Martens. That was probably the best he could do. As bitter as this pill is to swallow, he should not enter into a plea agreement with Jessica Kelley, the one person who was present at the crime scene and who Gonzales named as the murderer. Torrez should go after her with everything he has and convict her of murder, so she spends the rest of her life in prison. As for Gonzales, tampering with evidence (a 4th degree felony) may be the best Torrez can do. Torrez should not let any of these people get off, on the false promises of lying drug addicts, that they will name the unknown man. It is not going to happen. Based on his years of experience I am certain Judge Brown knows this.
Making a plea with Michelle Martens was akin to making a deal with Forest Gump; making a deal with Jessica Kelley is the same as dealing with the devil.
Torrez should prosecute with vigor Jessica Kelley for the murder of Victoria Martens. He should prosecute the devil he knows, and not make a deal for a false promise of identifying the devil he doesn’t know.”
Retired APD Sargeant