SAN ANTONIO – A man who turned himself in for a 1962 fatal shooting in Texas was tired of having an arrest warrant haunting him and was weary of living under an assumed name, his attorney says.
Pete Ortiz Jr., now 75, surrendered Wednesday to state District Judge Frank Castro. Ortiz was released on bond but must wear an ankle monitor.
Ortiz was indicted in March 1963 on a murder-with-malice charge in the Dec. 22, 1962, fatal shooting of Joe Ovalle, a self-employed sign painter who was killed in his driveway just before Christmas. Another man, Frank Juarez, also faced a murder-with-malice indictment in the killing and was convicted in April 1963. Juarez told authorities that he and Ortiz were hired for $1,000 by another man to kill Ovalle, who was allegedly an informant for federal narcotics agents.
KSAT television station reports Castro asked Ortiz: "Where have you been all these 55 years?"
"I work all the time," Ortiz replied. "I work in the fields picking cotton. I followed the migrants to Wisconsin."
Ortiz's attorney, John Kuntz, told KSAT that Ortiz was riding with Juarez but did not participate in the slaying. "Pete did nothing to aid, assist, abet or encourage this murder," Kuntz said.
Ovalle's daughter, 54-year-old Josie Martinez, called Ortiz's surrender "surreal." She told the San Antonio Express-News that she was born nine months after her father's death and she often thinks of what might have been.
"It has been hard never really knowing what happened, what kind of person he was, what kind of person he'd be now," Martinez said through tears.
District Attorney Nicholas "Nico" La Hood told KSAT that he's reviewing the case to determine whether there is enough evidence to convict.
"There's a challenge that comes with this," La Hood said. "Witnesses, statements, investigations that were done back then versus now, so we're in the process of evaluating all of that."