Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Lloyd and Dixie Ortiz’s surviving daughters have been waiting more than eight years for justice for their murdered family, and they’re still not happy, even after seeing the convicted killer receive his sentence for three counts of first-degree murder.
Santa Fe District Court Judge Francis Mathew sentenced Nicholas Ortiz, 24, to a total of 25 years for killing Lloyd Ortiz, Dixie Ortiz and Steven Ortiz with a mattock – a large pickax – at their home north of Santa Fe in June 2011. Nicholas Ortiz, who is not related to the victims, but had stayed with their adult daughter next door for several months, was 16 at the time of the murders.
He will get credit for time he has served since his February 2015 arrest and will be required to serve 85% of his sentence. It’s possible he can get out of prison in his early 40s.
Nicholas Ortiz was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, as well as aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, in December 2016. He was initially tried in May 2016, but a mistrial was declared because the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on any counts.
His sentencing had been delayed because his previous attorney filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court over jury instructions. But the high court eventually denied the appeal.
At the sentencing hearing Monday, the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office asked Mathew to sentence Ortiz to 25 years for each murder count and run the sentences consecutively for a total of 75 years. But Mathew decided to run all the sentences concurrently.
Before the killings, Nicholas had stayed with Cherie Ortiz-Rios, Lloyd and Dixie’s daughter, for several months and knew the victims. Ortiz-Rios had kicked him out of her house, where he had his own room, after he was found hiding in Lloyd and Dixie’s back yard.
Ortiz-Rios discovered the bodies on June 19, 2011, when she went over with a plate of enchiladas to celebrate Father’s Day.
In what investigators say was a burglary that went bad, Nicholas is believe to have knocked on the back door of the El Rancho house and bludgeoned Lloyd, 55, to death after he answered the door in the early morning hours. Prosecutors say he then went inside and killed Dixie, 53, with two skull-piercing blows as she lay sleeping in her bed, and finally killed Steven Ortiz, a 21-year-old disabled man the Ortizes adopted when he was a baby, after the two had a physical struggle in the kitchen.
Ortiz-Rios recalled the brutality of the murders and said she was angry about the sentence Mathew handed down.
“I just don’t understand what more a person would have to do in this state to get a life sentence,” Ortiz-Rios told the Journal after the hearing. “I’m still in shock that that was truly his sentence.”
Angela Ortiz, Lloyd and Dixie’s other adult daughter, also expressed anger at Mathew’s ruling.
“I’m just upset, and I don’t think it was fair,” she said. “I think my three beautiful family members deserved a lot more than this. There’s no way he’s (Nicholas Ortiz) going to be a better person in 25 years.”
According to evidence and testimony presented at both trials, Nicholas conspired with cousins Jose Roybal and Ashley Roybal to burglarize the Ortiz house that night, but only Nicholas went inside the house with the mattock. Nicholas was arrested after Ashley Roybal, who was 24 when the murders occurred, went to State Police and said Nicholas killed the Ortizes.
Ashley took a plea deal for her involvement, but Jose, 15 at the time, was never charged with any crimes.
Nicholas Ortiz addressed the court Monday and said he has changed a lot from the gang member he was at 16 to the father he is today.
He didn’t mention the killings or address the Ortizes or their family members, other than saying, “I did not do what I’m facing my life in prison for.”
Nicholas’ lawyer, Stephen Taylor, showed a video in court where several of Nicholas’ family members and friends spoke on his behalf. Taylor said he did this so they wouldn’t have to speak in court.
“The media has portrayed Nicholas to be a monster,” family friend Kelly Quintana said in the video. “He is far from what they portrayed him to be. He is amazing. He is a good, good man with a wonderful soul, and he deserved a second chance.”