ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Finding it was in accordance with the law and supported by substantial evidence, the state Court of Appeals has affirmed a local judge’s decision to release the man facing charges surrounding the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

In opting to free Fabian Gonzales, the Court of Appeals wrote, Judge Charles Brown properly considered the defendant’s lack of felony convictions, the dismissal of some of his most serious charges and the strength of the remaining allegations against him.

Shortly after the child was found dead in her family’s apartment, authorities said that Gonzales had drugged, raped and killed her before dismembering her body. But eventually evidence surfaced showing that Gonzales was not at the apartment at the time of Victoria’s death. The state’s latest theory of the case charges Gonzales with tampering with evidence and child abuse resulting in death. He is accused of helping his cousin dismember the girl’s body after she was reportedly killed by an unidentified man who was looking for Gonzales.

Gonzales’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, which filed the unsuccessful appeal, said the office is weighing its options “in order to best protect the community from Gonzales.”

Gonzales’ attorney Stephen Aarons said in a statement that his client “has been waiting 1,189 days for his day in court.” “The public has a right to know what really happened,” Aarons wrote. “It is high time for the district attorney to stop delaying this trial.”

Brown’s decision was the subject of social media rage and a protest in front of District Court in Downtown Albuquerque. Gonzales was finally released from jail last week after a more than three-year stay.

The Court of Appeals order comes less than a week after the state asked the court to review Brown’s decision. In their appeal, prosecutors explained why they believed Gonzales “poses a clear threat to the safety of the community” and should have been detained as he awaits trial in the case.

They also say Brown found Gonzales was not a threat because his record consists only of misdemeanor convictions and because his most egregious charges had been dismissed. They argued that the decision effectively created a rule requiring prior felony convictions or murder or rape charges in order to classify a defendant as a danger.

Read the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals

Albuquerque Journal ©2019 Reprinted with permission. Contact the writer.

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