Legal analysts and law enforcement experts reacted with shock on social media when a judge allowed Fabian Gonzales, 34, to walk free on Wednesday, 20 November.
Gonzales was one of a group of drug addicts who were there on the night of 23 August 2016 when Victoria Martens - who had turned 10 the day before - was injected with meth, raped, strangled and then dismembered in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The case has shocked residents in Albuquerque, a city which became synonymous with methamphetamine after it was used as the location for the hit TV show Breaking Bad.
"He (Fabian Gonzales) is now accused of child abuse resulting in death and with helping his cousin Jessica Kelley dismember the (10-year-old) girl’s body"— Varro Clarke (@vjamesclarke) November 11, 2019
"Judge Charles Brown denied a request by prosecutors to continue holding Gonzales behind bars"https://t.co/rEgf6jT5Ux
Gonzales’ girlfriend was Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, who has pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in the death of her daughter but told police her boyfriend’s cousin, Jessica Kelley, had killed the girl.
Police say Martens “liked watching Victoria being raped” by Gonzales and Kelley and “did nothing to stop attack, even though her daughter begged”.
Check out Ludella Awad’s News coverage: Downtown Albuquerque took a big hit with hundreds of people showing up Sunday to protest against the judge’s decision in the release of Fabian Gonzales in the Victoria Martens killing in 2016.— New Mexico Press Women (@NewMexicoPress1) November 11, 2019
Photos taken by Ludella Awad
Nov 10, 2019 pic.twitter.com/n8QTYPSRW8
Martens, 35, told police she used a dating website to find men willing to sexually abuse her daughter while she watched. She now faces 15 years in jail.
Kelley, 31, pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly causing or resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault.
BREAKING: Fabian Gonzales was released from jail on Tuesday afternoon.— Jill Michel (@ElectJillMichel) November 19, 2019
I look forward to Rep. Bill Rehm's press conference tomorrow addressing this absolute OUTRAGEOUS injustice. https://t.co/za0r4pxSS9
Kelley claimed in her plea agreement that she was "tweaking" and suffering paranoid delusions after taking methamphetamine on the afternoon she agreed to mind Victoria while Martens and Gonzales went out.
She claimed an unknown man came into the apartment and killed Victoria.
If Fabian Gonzales is not a danger 2 community after confessed to have dismembered Victoria Martins than the State of NM has lost its case on all non violent offenders being held for pre trial detention #NMPOL #NMLEGIS I hope every defendant charged w lesser crimes be released— NuevoMex Escandalo,corrupćion, vergonzozo (@NuevoPolitica) November 20, 2019
Murder charges were dropped against Gonzales but he still faces charges of child abuse and tampering with evidence.
Last week Judge Charles Brown caused consternation when he agreed to release Gonzales without GPS monitoring after ruling the state had failed to prove he was a danger to the community.
Victoria’s remains were found dead wrapped in a burning blanket.
No date has been set yet for Gonzales’ trial and police say they believe a fourth person was involved in the incident.
A man's partial DNA sample was found on the little girl's body and he has been indicted as a "John Doe."
Prosecutors have appealed against the decision to release Gonzales.