SANTA FE — The young defendant charged with bludgeoning three members of a Santa Fe County family to death in 2011 with a pickax was trying to steal $20,000 to buy drugs — and knew the people he killed well, even staying at their house at times.
That’s according to a State Police report made public for the first time Monday and used to charge Nicholas Ortiz, now 20, with the murders. Ortiz, who was arrested Friday, was only 16 when he allegedly carried out the triple homicide north of Santa Fe near Pojoaque.
Killed at their home in the El Rancho community in the early morning hours of June 19, 2011 — Father’s Day — were 55-year-old Lloyd Ortiz, who ran a tile business out of his home; 53-year-old Dixie Ortiz, who worked at a Los Alamos nursing home; and 21-year-old Steven Ortiz, their adopted son.
Nicholas Ortiz is not related to the homicide victims, but had sometimes stayed in their house, says the police affidavit. A pastor who came to his magistrate court arraignment hearing Monday said Nicholas Ortiz’s family and the family of the murder victims attend the same Pojoaque-area church, the Zion Worship Center.
According to the police affidavit, an alleged accomplice in the grisly killings of told police that he could tell Nicholas Ortiz had followed through with the murders just by the look on his face afterward.
Jose Roybal, who the police report says went to the murder scene with Ortiz but “punked out” before the killings, told investigators last year that “Nicholas was as white as a ghost” and “in shock” after allegedly beating the three family members to death.
Ortiz’s plan, cooked up by just a couple of hours before the slayings, was to steal $20,000 that was in a safe, says the police statement. But Ortiz is said to have panicked after the killings and left without any money.
According to the affidavit, State Police had a witness tell them just two days after the murder that Nicholas Ortiz had confessed to killing the family. State Police investigators heard the same thing from other witnesses in the years that followed, but didn’t make an arrest until Friday.
On Monday, a State Police spokeswoman said that due to the “dynamics of the investigation,” law enforcement proceeded cautiously. “If you don’t have everything put together we can lose a case, and then justice isn’t served,” she said.
Asked if the two accomplices and friends of Nicholas Ortiz identified in the affidavit — Jose and Ashley Roybal — would be charged, she deferred questions to the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office. DA Angela “Spence” Pacheco had no comment. The Roybals’ ages and whether they are brother and sister or otherwise related are not included in the arrest affidavit.
They told police that Otriz admitted to that he killed the family after he was picked up and driven away from the murder scene.
“Yea and I (expletive) up. I didn’t get the money,” he’s described as telling them.
During the arraignment hearing on Monday, Santa Fe Magistrate Judge Donita O. Sena denied bond for Ortiz.
Members of both families were present at the hearing, but declined to speak with a Journal reporter.
Plot conceived that night
According to the affidavit for Nicholas Ortiz’s arrest, the plot to murder the family was hashed out just before the killings, when Oritz and the Roybals were trying to figure out how they could get high but had no money. Initially, the trio thought about stealing marijuana plants growing on the Ortiz family property. Lloyd Ortiz grew pot for medical purposes at his home, prior reports have said.
But Ashley Roybal suggested they kill the family and rob the house instead, Jose Roybal told police.
Nicholas knew the family kept $20,000 in a safe inside a closet, according to the State Police report. It states that “Nick Ortiz was in fact very familiar with the residence and had stayed with the victims on previous occasions.”
It was Ashley Roybal who provided the pickax, which she got from her grandfather’s house.
She later dropped off both Nicholas Ortiz and Jose Roybal near the home of Lloyd, Dixie and Steven Ortiz about 1:30 a.m. that Sunday morning.
The two approached the house but Jose Roybal got scared and “punked out,” Nicholas later told Ashley Roybal, according to her account in the police report.
The accused killer told his friends later that he knocked on the back door of the home and killed Lloyd Ortiz when he came outside. He then went into the master bedroom and killed Dixie Ortiz. Finally, he killed Steven, who had suffered a brain injury from shaken baby syndrome prior to his being adopted by the Ortiz couple.