APD now says it's not a crime for a grown man to kiss little girl against her wishes
Story Changed, Department Ignored State Law
APD was required by state law to investigate but didn’t
BY DAN KLEIN
The Albuquerque Police Department is fond of saying, “If you see something, say something,” especially when it comes to the abuse of children.
After another 9-year-old, Omaree Varela, was killed in December 2013, APD Chief Gorden Eden promised that the department would do a better job of protecting our children. Taxpayers paid for a study that came up with new guidelines to ensure that our most vulnerable children would be protected.
Three years after Omaree’s death, it appears that the only change at APD has come in its ability to spin the news. It ignored its own policy in the case of little Victoria, who in August 2016 allegedly was drugged, beaten, raped, murdered and mutilated by her mother and two others.
Victoria’s autopsy report revealed that she was infected with HPV virus. Medical professionals say it takes several months for HPV virus to show up, meaning Victoria had been sexually molested for months prior to her death.
Call to CYFD
On March 28, 2016, several months before Victoria was killed, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department received an anonymous telephone call. The caller said the girl’s mother’s ex-boyfriend had attempted to kiss Victoria. CYFD reviewed the call and, because it appeared that a crime may have been committed, determined it fell outside the agency’s jurisdiction.
Such cases must be referred to local law enforcement. In this case, APD received the referral. What did APD do? According to police spokeswoman Celina Espinoza, nothing.
The person at APD who reviewed the referral, from their office, decided it was not a crime and did not require police to talk to Victoria. That’s right, without even asking Victoria, a desk jockey decided it wasn’t worth having an officer go check on her.
That’s different from what Espinoza told the Albuquerque Journal in January.
Espinoza told the morning daily: “Detectives talked to the mother, Michelle Martens, and Victoria, but they didn’t learn anything that gave them probable cause to suggest a crime had been committed.” That is why detectives did not write a police report, Espinoza said at the time.
Another Journal article reported, “When the Crimes Against Children Unit was told about the allegation of the mother’s ex-boyfriend trying to kiss a young girl [Victoria], they went to check it out. However, Espinoza said, they didn’t find anything amiss.”
APD command was going to stick with what they told the Journal, until ABQ Free Press Weekly exposed the fact that APD’s Standard Operating Procedure requires that a police report be generated in each and every case of alleged or confirmed crimes against a child. This would require a police dispatch number and lapel video, which APD could not provide. APD now admits the department didn’t investigate.
Incredibly, APD now says it is not a crime for a grown man to kiss little girl against her wishes. That’s patently false. A New Mexico criminal statute, NMSA Section 30-3-4, states, “Battery is the unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to the person of another, when done in a rude, insolent or angry manner.”
An unwanted kiss, to a person of any age, is a battery. The fear that Victoria may have experienced when the boyfriend tried to kiss her very well could have made the act a crime. The person who witnessed this was creeped out enough to report it to CYFD. The agency did its job by referring the case to APD, which did nothing.
APD’s Standard Operating Procedure states, “Field Services officers have case responsibility for misdemeanor crimes against children.”
It also says, “A police report will be written, whether a crime is confirmed or was just suspected.” This was the change that was instituted after Omaree Varela’s murder.
APD has in its ranks dozens of field officers who have been trained in how to investigate crimes against children. These officers work 24/7, so why wasn’t one dispatched to look into Victoria’s case?
ABQ Free Press Weekly repeatedly asked APD spokesperson Espinoza for the name and rank of the APD employee who determined that attempting to kiss a 9-year-old did not warrant a police response. Espinoza never answered the question.
Omaree Varela’s death cost a beat cop his job, and several other officers were disciplined. Yet Victoria’s referral wasn’t dispatched, and APD refuses to tell the public who made that decision.
APD doesn’t know whether Victoria was in fear. That’s why APD should have sent a specially trained beat cop to check on her. But they didn’t.
I am sick of the lies, diversion and spin that APD leadership has been spewing regarding Victoria’s death. It crosses the line. I have no faith that APD leadership tells the truth about anything anymore. The lies are too many, and the cover-ups too blatant. I spent 20 years as an APD officer. I know we are better than this.
There is no guarantee that had a cop been dispatched to talk to Victoria that the officer would have recognized the sexual abuse she was enduring. Nor is there any guarantee that the cop would have taken action that might have saved her life.
But I can say with certainty that APD’s decision not to send an officer made it certain that she wouldn’t be saved.
The good guys never came.
How many other Victorias are waiting for an APD cop who never comes?
How many other Victorias and Omarees will die before this community gets fed up with the rot at the head of our police department? When will the police chief be held accountable?
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.