Almost one year after a triple homicide in El Rancho, New Mexico State Police have yet to name a suspect in the grisly homicides.
At a news conference Tuesday morning at state police headquarters, Chief Robert Shilling said investigators have conducted more than 120 interviews, collected more than 50 pieces of evidence, executed 10 search warrants and run 30 "impact" operations in El Rancho, but none of their efforts has led to an arrest.
"As it stands today and has been since day one when we responded to the scene, this homicide is the No. 1 priority case for our investigations bureau in the northern half of the state," Shilling said. "But we are still asking for the citizens' help, that if they know anything, saw anything, no matter how innocuous they think it is, to please call."
Shilling said one of the reasons the news conference was called was to "refresh people's memories" and to remind them that this is an ongoing case. He advised anyone with any information to call the anonymous tip line, Crimestoppers, at 955-5050.
A billboard depicting the victims, Lloyd Ortiz, 55, his wife, Dixie Ortiz, 53, and their son Steven Ortiz, 21, was erected along U.S. 84/285 by surviving family members Cherie Ortiz-Rios and Angela Spinks, the daughters of Lloyd Ortiz.
"The family did put up a billboard asking for information and posting the Crimestoppers number," Shilling acknowledged, but, he said, "based on the information I have to date, nothing has been generated as a result of that as far as leads involving the case."
Ortiz-Rios discovered the bodies at her parents' house on Father's Day evening -- Sunday, June 19, 2011 -- and called police telling them her family had been shot. Police investigated the crime scene for just more than 12 hours before allowing the family back in.
An autopsy revealed that the three had not been shot but rather died from blunt force trauma. A bloody pickax was found in a vacant field behind the house on the Tuesday following the homicides. Two others were found just last month, but police haven't linked them to the crimes.
Shilling, when asked whether it was a mistake to leave the crime scene without any evidence of a murder weapon, said, "Hindsight is 20-20 on that, and we certainly get that. In the final analysis, we don't think we lost any forensic evidence or any lead opportunities as a result of that."
Ortiz-Rios told The New Mexican in a series of interviews that she was frustrated with how the investigation has been handled, but ultimately said she has the same goal as Shilling: "I just don't want anybody to forget about my family," she said.
Ortiz-Rios said police have not eliminated her or her husband, Jesse Rios, as suspects in the case. The two live in a home on her parents' property and were the first at the murder scene.
"There is a group of people we have not been able to completely remove from the investigation," Shilling said, but he would not confirm any dealings with Ortiz-Rios.
Shilling said police have not narrowed down a motive for the killings, either.
"We're keeping our minds open, and we're not staying inside of a box and focusing on any one individual or motive," Shilling said. "We have to look at every component and every possibility that could be tied into this case."
He said his investigation bureau has traveled to Oklahoma, Arizona and California to conduct interviews and that anyone's notion that the case has turned cold is unfounded.
"One thing we've learned throughout modern-day policing," Shilling said, "is that a year from now, two, three years from now, one piece of critical information may come up that could break the case wide open."
Shilling alluded to a possible break in the case that could come next month, but he declined to be more specific. "We have some issues on the burner involving this case coming up in July," he said.
Shilling did not allow the four detectives actively working the case to speak at the news conference, although Capt. Juan Martinez, Lt. Ted Collins and Sgt. Scott McFaul all attended.
A $1,000 reward for each victim has been offered by state police for information leading to an arrest or arrests in the case.
IN SUNDAY'S EDITION
For the complete story on the El Rancho homicides, including a look at state police reports and interviews with family members, pick up a copy of Sunday's edition of The New Mexican.
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