SANTA FE – A woman who played a role in a 2011 triple homicide in northern Santa Fe County in which a couple and their adult son were bludgeoned to death with a mattock was sentenced Thursday to about 14 years in prison.
In a plea deal, Ashley Roybal, 31, became a state witness in the case against main defendant Nicholas Ortiz, 16 years old at the time of the killings, who allegedly wielded the pick-ax-like digging tool as a murder weapon in a burglary plan that went out of control.
Roybal and her cousin Jose Roybal acknowledged they helped plan a break-in at the El Rancho house of Lloyd Ortiz, 55, Dixie Ortiz, 53, and their 21-year-old son Steven, to look for money and marijuana.
Jose Roybal, who testified in a deal under which he avoided prosecution, said it was Ashley who actually picked out the mattock as a weapon and told Nicholas Ortiz — who was not related to the murdered family but knew them — and Jose, “Why don’t you just kill them?”
But Ashley Roybal testified that she never suggested murder or provided the weapon, saying Nicholas Ortiz took the mattock from the Roybals’ grandfather’s home. She admitted that she picked up Nicholas at the murder scene following the killings, and said he later threatened her against telling anyone.
Jose Robyal told police he planned to go into the home where the three people were killed with Nicholas but backed out. He testified that with it Ashley told the two males to cover their shoes and hands during the burglary — there is no physical evidence against Nicholas —and that she was their ride to and from the Ortiz family’s home.
At Nicholas Ortiz’s second trial in December 2016 — his first that year had ended in a hung jury — he was found guilty of murder. But in September, District Judge Francis Mathew ordered that Ortiz, now 23, receive a new trial due to problems with jury instructions. The District Attorney’s Office is appealing that order.
At Ashley’s sentencing hearing Thursday, Mathew gave her an official sentence of 20 years, 1 month and one week, with six years of that suspended. About three and a half years will be taken off the sentence for time already served in Santa Fe County jail. The remaining 10 and a half years could be cut in half if she earns all of the “good time” credit she’s eligible for in prison, according to defense attorney Michael Jones.
She was also sentenced to five years supervised probation following her release and ordered to pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution.
She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence in connection to the triple homicide, as well as to several burglary-related charges from 2014 and probation violations.
Jones said Roybal has been trying to use her time in jail effectively and provided Mathew with certificates of completion from classes she’s taken in jail — he later clarified these were drug treatment courses — and told the judge she’s read about 800 books.
“She’s trying to better herself,” he said, adding that the Penitentiary of New Mexico has more resources for her to do so.
No family members of the victims were present to speak at the sentencing. Roybal chose not to make a statement.