It was in early morning darkness that officers scrambled to sort out the chaos at an Albuquerque apartment complex where a couple had reportedly been attacked, the woman bleeding from a head injury and the man with a black eye and wearing blood-stained shorts.
The woman told officers her 10-year-old daughter was still inside apartment number 808 from which they had escaped.
What the officers didn't know was that the child was already dead, her battered and dismembered body partially wrapped in a blanket and set ablaze.
With the fire alarm blaring, they busted in the front door and searched the smoke-filled apartment for Victoria Martens. In the bathroom, the real crime began to come into focus.
Investigators took into custody the girl's mother, her boyfriend and his cousin.
The community was left struggling to understand how a blossoming elementary school student who loved swimming and gymnastics could have been the target of such violence.
Details of what New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and law enforcement officials described as an unspeakable crime emerged in a criminal complaint made public Thursday. Police said Victoria was injected with methamphetamine, sexually assaulted, strangled and stabbed before being dismembered.
The killing happened on the day Victoria was going to celebrate her 10th birthday.
"This homicide is the most gruesome act of evil I have ever seen in my career," Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. said.
The girl's mother, 35-year-old Michelle Martens, her 31-year-old boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, and his 31-year-old cousin, Jessica Kelley, face charges of child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Gonzales and Kelley also face charges of criminal sexual penetration of a minor.
Gonzales denied having involvement with Victoria's death while reporters yelled questions at him as he was led out of the police station in handcuffs late Wednesday. The girl's mother said nothing as she taken from the police station to a police cruiser and driven away.
Kelley on Friday was booked into the county jail after being released from the hospital for injuries that stemmed from her jumping from the apartment's balcony in an effort to evade police. She probably won't make her initial court appearance until Saturday, said court spokeswoman Camille Baca.
Bail was set at $1 million each for Martens and Gonzales at their first court appearance Thursday afternoon. The two did not speak in court, and the public defense lawyer who represented them did not comment about the allegations.
As news spread about Victoria's death, neighbors and friends built a makeshift memorial under a tree near the apartment complex, adorning it with stuffed animals and candles. Some hugged while others cried and prayed.
In the evening, dozens of people gathered for a candlelight vigil and the shrine grew.
Christie Zamora said Victoria attended her gymnastics class every Saturday and always seemed happy.
"She was incredibly social," Zamora said. "It's just so tragic."
Another shrine was erected at Petroglyph Elementary School, where Victoria had just started the new school year.
School officials said in a statement that, like the rest of the community, their hearts ache. "Victoria is in our thoughts and prayers as we hold our children just a little tighter on this sad day," the statement read.
Neighbors said Victoria's mother worked at a nearby grocery store deli and they were shocked to see a mugshot of her in an orange jail jumpsuit.
Mugshots of Martens and Gonzales released by police showed them with bruises on their faces. According to the complaint, Gonzales said his cousin hit him and Martens with an iron, prompting him to jump over the balcony and run to a neighboring apartment for help. Martens also found her way outside.
Police initially went to the apartment complex early Wednesday after the neighbor reported the disturbance.
Victoria's mother told police she met Gonzales online about a month ago and that he drugged the girl so he could calm her down and have sex with her, the complaint said.
Gonzales pleaded no contest to a charge of child abandonment in 2015. He was not being monitored by probation officers because New Mexico Department of Corrections officials were unaware of a judge's order requiring supervised probation, said corrections spokeswoman Alex Sanchez.
Tim Korte, a spokesman for Albuquerque's 2nd District Court, said court records show the judgment mandating probation monitoring for Gonzales was sent to the corrections department in 2015.
Kelley's record includes battery, domestic violence and drug charges. The Albuquerque Journal reported that Kelley acted as a lookout while a woman allegedly raped another inmate at a regional detention center in 2012.
Martens told police she allowed Kelley to stay in her apartment after Kelley was recently released from prison.
Online court records show no criminal history in New Mexico for Martens.