Albuquerque Police spokespersons said in January, which was reported in a front-page story by the Journal, that their detectives followed up and spoke with Victoria Martens and her mother, Michelle Martens, about the ‘attempted kiss’ allegation.
Celina Espinoza, an APD spokeswoman, said that is not correct.
She said APD standard operating procedure calls for a follow-up if there is a report of neglect, abuse or a crime.
In her interview with detectives, Martens admitted to allowing at least two other men to rape Victoria, according to documents filed in the case.
The public first learned that APD had been made aware of earlier allegations of potential abuse against Victoria in January 2017 after CYFD released results of an internal investigation.
In an interview in late January, APD spokesman Fred Duran told the Journal that detectives had looked into the allegation that one of Martens’ boyfriends had tried to kiss Victoria.
Although Espinoza initially said that CYFD had investigated the claim, she later agreed with Duran that it was APD who followed up even though no dispatch logs or any other records existed that could verify the officers visited the family.
When asked about the discrepancy between what APD said in January and what she said this week, Espinoza said a reporter had misunderstood her and Duran’s comments.
“There was a miscommunication between and my office that inferred it was APD investigators.”
In the previous interviews, which were taped, both Espinoza and Duran referred to the investigators as “Detectives,” and Espinoza referred to them as “Our detectives.” APD has detectives; CYFD does not.
The agency sent the case to APD as is policy with cases that don’t involve a parent, guardian or custodian who lives with the child, he said.
When asked why APD did not attempt to correct the misinformation published in the January story, Espinoza issued a statement that said, in part, “We do our best to answer media questions in a timely, factual manner even under submersible pressure and copious criticism.”
Attorney Thomas Grover, a former APD sergeant, said sexual allegations involving minors should be taken seriously because seemingly small accusations can lead to more grave discoveries.
Marie “Sisi” Miranda, a former sergeant with the Crimes Against Children Unit, said it’s likely the allegation was given a lower priority because APD has to investigate more serious cases.
Espinoza said all calls referred from CYFD to APD are screened on a daily basis, and if a case does not meet the criteria of a crime, abuse or neglect, no one from the Crimes Against Children Unit or a field officer would respond.
A request for comment from the mayor’s office was referred to APD. Espinoza responded that APD could not have prevented Victoria’s death.
“A complete, thorough review of both CYFD and APD’s involvement has provided no evidence that could have helped prevent or alerted investigators to such an appalling tragedy,” she said.
After the high-profile case of child abuse resulting in the death of 9-year-old Omaree Varela in 2013, the city commissioned a task force – Miranda prepared the report – to recommend ways APD could improve its response to child abuse cases.
He said the department doesn’t have enough officers to investigate these types of calls, and APD officials should continue asking themselves how to mend possible cracks in the system.
“The information that was provided to APD was that the attempted kiss was initiated by a former boyfriend who no longer had access to the child or contact with the family. This is exactly why our agency reviews the cross referenced cases from CYFD. Due to the details provided, this does not meet our SOP in correlation to State Law.”