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Independent Probe Sought

Independent Probe Sought

On April 2, 2014, Gov. Susana Martinez stated, “For any family in New Mexico that has faced two CYFD investigations, whether abuse or neglect was substantiated or not, I am directing CYFD to perform a supervisory high-level review involving that family.'

Lawmaker Wants CYFD Investigated

Could She Have Lived if State Officials Acted?


A Democratic legislator has called on New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to probe the Martinez administration’s handling of the case of Victoria Martens — the 10-year-old girl who was raped and killed after her mother allegedly advertised for men to have sex with her.

The child was injected with methamphetamines prior to or during her rape, then strangled and stabbed while her mother watched, according to police. After her death, her body was dismembered and set on fire, police said.

On Friday, Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, an Albuquerque Democrat, called on Balderas to investigate the state’s handling of prior reports to state officials that the girl may have been abused.

“The alleged details surrounding the death of Victoria Martens may be the worst crime in New Mexico history, and it demands action,” said Padilla in a news release Friday night. “I am asking Attorney General Hector Balderas to appoint a non-partisan independent blue ribbon commission, or similar committee, of former members of the New Mexico judiciary to investigate this matter as soon as possible.”

According to the release, after the death of Omaree Varela — a child kicked to death by his mother after previous reports to state child welfare officials — New Mexicans were assured that the New Mexico Children Youth and Family Department would make changes to its procedures regarding reports of abuse.

On April 2, 2014, following Omaree’s death, Gov. Susana Martinez stated, “For any family in New Mexico that has faced two CYFD investigations, whether abuse or neglect was substantiated or not, I am directing CYFD to perform a supervisory high-level review involving that family.” Martinez, a Republican, is a former Dona Ana County prosecutor.

Martinez indirectly cited the death of Victoria Martens as a reason she included anti-crime legislation in her proclamation for this week’s budgetary special session of the Legislature. She asked for increased penalties for crimes against children resulting in death and she asked legislators to consider re-instituting the death penalty in New Mexico.

“At the conclusion of this independent investigation I am asking that the attorney general provide the results, along with a set of recommendations, to my office and all other members of leadership of the New Mexico Legislature,” Padilla said in the news release. Like Padilla, Balderas is a Democrat.

CYFD officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Several New Mexico news organizations have reported that at least two reports were made to CYFD about Victoria Martens. “This investigation will determine if all processes were followed, including a supervisory high-level review of the family,” Padilla said, citing the language Martinez used after the death of Omaree.

In the wake of Omaree’s death, Martinez removed CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines with a new secretary, Monique Jacobson, formerly secretary of the state’s tourism department. Jacobson had no previous experience in child welfare.

Following Jacobson’s appointment, Legislative Finance Committee staff recommended, during the 2015 Session, that CYFD create 66 new positions to investigate child abuse, according to the release. Padilla said Jacobson did not agree that the new positions were needed and instead downsized the requested increase to 45 new positions.

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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.

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