Pickax Slayings Still Unsolved One Year later

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Crime: Police have no new leads in the case

By The Staff

Today marks the one-year anniversary of an unsolved triple homicide in El Rancho that has left State Police stumped.

The bodies of Lloyd, Dixie and Steven Ortiz were found in their El Rancho home on June 19 of last year.

State Police spokesman Lt. Robert McDonald said there are no updates in the case, but that the investigation into the murders has been what he called “very active.”

He said State Police have conducted more than 120 interviews, executed 10 search warrants, submitted more than 50 pieces of evidence to the crime lab and followed leads as far as Oklahoma, Arizona and California.

Even so, McDonald said investigators at this point still don’t have exactly what they need to name any suspects or eliminate any surviving family members as suspects.

He said State Police are asking the public to submit any tips they may have regarding the murders to the Santa Fe Crime Stoppers hot line at 505-955-5050. The family of the victims has also posted a billboard seeking help in the investigation that can be seen on the left hand side of 285/84 heading north toward Española.

McDonald said the investigation is a top priority for State Police and will continue to be.

“Every day is a new task and hopefully a new lead that may point us in the right direction and closer to solving this case,” he said.

On June 19, 2011, police found the bodies of Lloyd Ortiz, 55; his wife Dixie Ortiz, 53; and their adopted son Steven Ortiz, 21. They initially believed that the three had been shot in the head, but autopsy reports two days later showed that they had died from blunt-force trauma to the head.

Steven Ortiz had been hit 17 times, Lloyd Ortiz had been hit seven, and Dixie Ortiz had been hit twice.
Police say they have no motive in the attack, but money did not appear to be involved since Lloyd Ortiz’s wallet was found on the kitchen counter and two safes containing more than $80,000 were undisturbed.

The case file has numerous reports about events that preceded the crime, but none have led to an arrest.

They include information about a 16-year-old boy who lived with the Ortiz family before they kicked him out, accusing him of stealing marijuana. In an interview, the boy — who reportedly was involved with a gang — told police that he lost contact with the family “after he got blamed for stuff he did not do.”

Three weeks before the killing, Ortiz-Rios’ daughter, Catalina Rios, told police that a gang member unrelated to the 16-year-old had shown her a gun and threatened to kill her family.

Some police reports say that the Ortiz family may have been selling drugs, but one of the couple’s daughters, Cherie Ortiz-Rios, denied those claims, saying that her brother had a prescription for medical marijuana.

A police report said 17 marijuana plants were found at the home.

Ortiz-Rios and her husband, Jessie Rios, said they last saw her parents and brother two days before they were killed and had planned on spending Father’s Day with them.

Ortiz-Rios was cooking an enchilada dinner for her father and went over to the house to tell him that it was almost ready.

When she found the doors locked and no one answered, she let herself in with an extra key and saw two of the bodies before running out of the house and calling 911.

Ortiz-Rios criticized the police investigation, saying that interviews with family members, neighbors and friends have centered on her and her husband from the beginning.

She said that when officers arrived at her parents’ house that day, one officer asked her what she did with the gun she used to kill the family, and that her husband was later asked the same question.

State Police Chief Robert Shilling said that neither of the couple has been named as a suspect.

Ortiz-Rios and her husband also said that about 14 hours after police searched the house, the medical examiner’s office recommended some companies that clean up crime scenes.

Cleaning crews arrived the evening after the killings and were there when state police, who had just learned that the three had died of blunt-force trauma, returned to look for the murder weapon.

Several items, including carpeting from the bedroom, were already in a biohazard bag, according to Agent Bryan Waller’s report.

Jesse Rios said the house should have been sealed for three days until the weapon was found. “They could’ve found a lot more evidence,” he said.

Shilling said police don’t think they lost any forensic evidence.

Angela Spinks, the Ortiz’s other daughter, said that she talks to police about once a week but gets few answers.

“I do feel we have to give them more of a chance to see where they are on this,” she said. But “I do know the longer it takes, probably the worse it gets. I don’t know what evidence they have. They have not shared that with us, and I don’t know if they can or if they are just lying to me.”

Shilling said police have done their best.

“We’ve made a very concerted effort over the last year to remain in constant communication with family members in trying to address concerns or questions,” he said.

Shilling urged members of the public who may have any information about the killings to come forward, no matter how innocuous they think it might be.

“One thing we’ve learned throughout modern-day policing is that a year from now, two, three years from now, one piece of critical information may come up that breaks the case wide open,” he said.

Staff member Whitney Jones and the Associated Press contributed to this report.