A 75-year-old man surrendered to Texas authorities on Wednesday and confessed to a fatal ambush-style shooting that he carried out over five decades ago that saw him and an accomplice gun down a young father who had just gotten home from Christmas shopping with his son.
Pete Ortiz Jr. was indicted in 1963 on a charge of murder with malice in the 1962 shooting of Joe Ovalle, a 26-year-old father from San Antonio who was shot dead outside his home moments after his young child had gone inside, San Antonio Express-News reported.
A 28-year-old man named Frank Luna Juarez was arrested and charged with Ovalle’s death, but contemporary reports noted that a second gunman was still at large. Juarez claimed that he had nothing to do with the shooting and merely drove the car for Ortiz but later admitted that the duo had been paid $1,000 to kill Ovalle for allegedly serving as an informant for federal narcotics agents.
Ortiz was sentenced by a Bexar County jury to 99 years in prison in April 1963, but by then, he was said to have fled to Mexico. Authorities were unable to track him down for 55 years – until he showed up in court alongside an attorney to confess his misdeeds.
Judge Frank J. Castro ordered Ortiz’s bail reduced from $250,000 to $50,000 and he was released on bond on Thursday and ordered to wear a GPS monitor while he awaits trial. At the home where Ortiz is expected to reside until his court date, a woman claimed that Ortiz’s warrant “has been hard” for his family.
Ovalle’s daughter, 54-year-old Josie Martinez, was born nine months after her father was murdered. She learned of Ortiz’s surrender on Thursday when contacted by a reporter.
“It has been hard never really knowing what happened, what kind of person he was, what kind of person he’d be now,” a tearful Martinez said of her father, whom she never knew.