George Ortiz used to shovel the snow at the Luisa Senior Center, 1522 Luisa St., clearing walkways to the cafeteria for the elderly residents.
Ortiz’s friend of about a decade, Aurora Velasquez, says he didn’t have any immediate family but was quick to make friends. “He was as nice as anyone you could meet,” Velasquez said Friday.
Ortiz was killed Oct. 29 in his apartment, and on Friday, his accused killers appeared in state District Court for their arraignment. A woman Velasquez says Ortiz helped raise, Jeannie Sandoval, 30, and her reported boyfriend, Anthony Yepez, 26, are each charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence. If convicted, each faces a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.
Both pleaded not guilty Friday in front of state District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer.
Sandoval, the granddaughter of Ortiz’s late wife, and Yepez were living with Ortiz in his small apartment in the complex, according to police reports, and allegedly killed Ortiz following an argument the evening of Oct. 29.
The statement of probable cause for Sandoval’s arrest says she texted a family member about killing Ortiz and the next day was located by deputies from the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office. Sandoval told investigators that Ortiz, who was about 75 years old, had struck her in the throat and that Yepez “attempted to intervene on her behalf.” She told officers that Ortiz then struck Yepez in the chest. Ten minutes later, Yepez attacked Ortiz, choking and killing him, the statement says.
“Yepez told her that they needed to burn the decedent’s body in order to destroy the evidence,” the document states. Sandoval reportedly told police that Yepez then gave her a bottle of cooking oil, which she poured over Ortiz’s body. The two then lit Ortiz’s body on fire and fled in his white Toyota Camry.
The only visible fire damage to Ortiz’s apartment the day after the killing was a small soot stain above one of the unit’s back windows. Santa Fe police Capt. Aric Wheeler said at the time that the department’s theory was that the oil on Ortiz’s clothing served as a wick that burned at an exceptionally high temperature yet did not cause an explosion or more extensive fire damage to the building.
“He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” Velasquez said after Sandoval and Yepez’s arraignment.
Velasquez said that whenever she visited Ortiz, Sandoval would leave the apartment and not speak with her. In court, Yepez and Sandoval stood next to each other, Yepez represented by a public defender and Sandoval represented by attorney Tom Clark. The defendants did not speak to the judge or each other.
Clark said after the arraignment that he is still reviewing the facts of the case and wouldn’t comment on his clients’ response to the charges. Sandoval and Yepez are each being held in Santa Fe County jail in lieu of $1 million cash-only bonds.
Judge Marlowe-Sommer outlined a schedule to take the case to trial in June 2013.
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.