EL RANCHO, N.M. (AP) – A man suspected of killing a couple and their adult son nearly four years ago tried to steal $20,000 from the family who had previously let him stay in their home, according to court documents.
Nicholas Ortiz, 20, was taken into custody Friday and charged with three counts of murder, tampering with evidence and bribery or intimidation of a witness. He was denied bond during a hearing Monday at which his parents asked that he be allowed to live with them pending his trial.
No trial date has been set.
State police say 53-year-old Dixie Ortiz, 55-year-old Lloyd Ortiz and their special-needs son, 21-year-old Steven Ortiz, were found dead from head trauma in their El Rancho home on June 29, 2011.
Investigators later found a blood-stained pick ax in a nearby field and linked the weapon to the killings.
The grisly murders had lingered among the state's most disturbing unsolved cases and had left a sense of unease in the community where the slain Ortiz family members were well regarded. According to police, Nicholas Ortiz wasn't related to the victims but had stayed with them.
Friday's abrupt arrest was the first development in the four-year-old case, which left the victims' family and El Rancho residents frustrated with the lumbering investigation. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that in the past four years, investigators never revealed if they had potential leads or knew of the motives behind the slayings.
State police have remained silent about why it has taken so long to make an arrest. In a statement issued Friday, the agency described it as a "complex investigation."
According to a police affidavit filed in court Monday, witnesses told investigators Nicholas Ortiz was out to steal $20,000 from a safe at the residence. He allegedly told friends that he killed the family, panicked and then ran out of the house.
Nicholas' father and mother appealed to the judge during Monday's hearing to allow their son to be released. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the father said Ortiz was not a flight risk and had cooperated with police throughout the investigation.
Cherie Ortiz, Lloyd and Dixie's daughter, urged the judge to keep Nicholas Ortiz in jail. She said the families live close to each other and she considered Nicholas Ortiz a threat.
"It's not safe for our family and the community," she said.
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