The Justice Files: ‘Bad blood’ a motive in 1969 cold case murder

Justice Files

OGDEN Utah (ABC4 Utah) – A police report that went unnoticed for decades helped solve a cold case murder.

According to authorities in Weber County, the letter is their “smoking gun” that helped solve the 1969 murder of Leroy Ortiz.

“We don’t have any other evidence to suggest anyone else involved (in the murder) other than Richard Rios,” said Chris Allred, Weber County attorney.

In the spring of 1969, Ortiz disappeared after leaving his Ogden home. His mother watched him leave with two “unidentified young” men.

Ortiz was a Golden Gloves boxer and was preparing for the championships in Las Vegas when he suddenly vanished.

Three weeks later his body was found in a diversion dam near Slatterville.

“He was shot in the back with a single round and he died instantly,” said Jason Jensen with the Utah Cold Case Coalition.  “He was shot as he was trying to escape because he was bound to a chair.”

Possible suspects included Richard Rios. He and his brother Tony were questioned back then. But there was not enough evidence to make an arrest.

“I always suspected him from the very beginning after that fight,” said Sandra Ortiz, Leroy’s sister.  “After my brother’s body was found word was going around that he, the Rios brothers were the ones who did it.”

The Rios brothers were known on the street as troublemakers, according to police and the Ortiz family. According to a 1973 media report they were accused of assaulting a police officer, fleeing, and drunk.  Rios even spent time in prison for numerous drug and theft charges.

“There was apparently, some bad blood between the two,” said Allred. “Whether that was sufficient motive, whether there were other things, I don’t know.”  

But for 52-years the Ortiz family never found the justice they were seeking. And the murder of the Ogden boxer turned into a cold case.  Two years ago at the urging of the Utah Cold Case Coalition, the case was re-opened.  

A new detective with the Weber County Sheriff’s office took over the case. Previous detectives had since retired.  Detective Steven Haney came across a police report from 1969. He read about a man named Raymond L. Norman who was an acquaintance of Rios.  According to the report, Norman had information about the murder. 

“Norman told them that Richard Rios confessed to him to having killed Ortiz,” said Allred.  

ABC4 obtained a copy of the police report.  Norman told the officer that the two of them were riding around one night and he asked Rios about the Ortiz murder. But the officers said Norman said he “was very much afraid of the Rios brothers,” and didn’t ask any more questions.  

Norman was in a Louisiana jail at the time.  The Weber County sheriff sent the Louisiana county sheriff a letter asking them to “have Raymond L. Norman take a polygraph examination.”  

Allred said there was no further information about the Norman-Rios connection. 

“Records aren’t great from that time period and so it’s not apparent to me, there was no follow up that I can see with Norman down there in Louisiana.”  

But Richard Rios is dead.  He died in 1995. His brother, Tony died in 1995. Allred said Norman died as well.  A third man, Tony Lujan whom the Rios brothers were known to associate with also died according to Allred. 

He said there’s no other place to turn to and they’ve decided to close the books based on Norman’s statement. 

“We don’t have any other evidence to suggest anyone else was involved other than Richard Rios,” said Allred.

Thursday, Leroy Ortiz’ brother and sister respond to these latest developments.  

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