Death – Defendant in drive-by hit with murder charge in separate case

Death – Obituary

Jaden Ortega (Sandoval County Detention Center)

A man awaiting trial in a drive-by shooting that injured two people outside Farmington last July has been charged in the death of a 52-year-old woman gunned down days later in her living room near Aztec, NM.

Jaden Ortega, 21, is charged with an open count of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the July 30 death of Julie Harris. He is currently jailed at the San Juan County Detention Center.

Detectives matched the 9mm casings from the July 20 shooting involving Ortega to those found outside Harris’ home after her death, according to court records. Samuel Stephens, the 18-year-old that fired the gun in the drive-by shooting, told authorities Ortega told him he killed Harris, the mother of an acquaintance.

Ortega was already awaiting trial in two separate cases.

In one, authorities say he ordered Stephens to open fire on a carful of people and, in the other, fell asleep with his baby in the bathtub, allowing the 1-year-old to drown, in February.

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said in a statement on the agency’s Facebook page that Ortega is “another example” of the state’s failed bail reform system.

“Ortega had an extensive criminal history prior to this tragedy. I sincerely hope our legislators take the opportunity this session to protect New Mexicans from violent repeat offenders. This cannot continue,” Ferrari said.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Aztec Magistrate Court:

San Juan County deputies responded around 3:45 a.m. to a home off County Road 3086, northwest of Aztec, after Harris’ 15-year-old daughter reported that she found her mother shot to death.

Deputies found Harris in the living room with a gunshot wound to the head, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. There were several bullet holes in the front door and an equal number of 9mm shell casings outside.

Deputies said Harris’ teenage daughter had thrown a late-night party in the backyard in the hours leading up to her mother’s death. Neighbors security video showed partygoers cleared out by 2 a.m. and around 3:20 a.m. a lone car drove up to the home and then left abruptly several minutes later.

The detective on the case, who was also investigating the drive-by involving Ortega 10 days earlier, sent the casings recovered in both incidents to the crime lab for comparison. The results showed the casings came from the same gun before detectives identified Stevens as a suspect in the drive-by.

Stevens told detectives he gave the gun used in that shooting, a green 9mm, back to Ortega afterward. After being released from jail pending trial in that case, Stevens told deputies Ortega was connected to the Harris killing.

Stevens said, before their arrest, the pair were hanging out at a recording studio in Albuquerque when he mentioned not being able to attend Harris’ funeral. Stevens told detectives a “heavily intoxicated” Ortega pulled him aside and told him he drove his mom’s car to the Harris home, knocked on the door and “emptied his clip” through the door.

He said Ortega told him he sped away on rough roads toward Flora Vista, damaging his mom’s car. Deputies found Snapchat videos of Ortega and a friend flashing guns, including a green 9mm, in his mother’s car hours before Harris’ death.

Ortega’s mother told deputies her son borrowed her car on July 29 and brought it back heavily damaged the next morning. She said later that morning Ortega “was emotional” after receiving a call that Harris was dead.

In the days afterward, deputies said Ortega posted a Snapchat photo of the green 9mm, offering to sell it for $400.

Stevens told detectives he didn’t know why Ortega killed Harris but assumed it was due to “the beef” he had with Harris’ son. He said Ortega had previously pitched the idea of robbing a gun safe in the home but Stevens refused to go along with it.

A detective requested the documents be sealed in the case due to Ortega’s “history of violence and intimidation.” Deputies said after Ortega learned of Steven’s cooperation in the drive-by case, he labeled Stevens a “rat.”

“It is likely he will attempt to further intimidate or harm witnesses and other involved parties,” a detective wrote in the affidavit.

Since 2016, Ortega has been arrested repeatedly on charges including kidnapping, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and rape, among others. At least four of the cases against him have been dismissed, three of those because victims and witnesses did not cooperate.

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What Is An Obituary

In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”

In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.