The Justice Files: Killer taunted victim’s family after 1969 murder

Justice Files

OGDEN Utah (ABC4 Utah) –  The man accused of murdering Leroy Ortiz taunted his family after his death.

In 1969, Ortiz’s body was found in the river near Slatterville.  He had disappeared about three weeks earlier.  Authorities said Ortiz was shot in the back of the head.

The murder became a cold case. It was re-opened in 2017 and this week the Weber County attorney told ABC4 news they found their killer. 

“We’re fairly confident that Richard Rios was the one that in fact murdered Ortiz,” said Chris Allred.

They’ve officially closed the books on the murder investigation.

Ortiz’ sister was aware of their findings and was satisfied with news.

“Happiness, happiness and appreciation and grateful that it has come to this point,” Sandra Ortiz said.

For nearly 52-years, Ortiz’s family wondered who killed their brother. They had their suspicions but it couldn’t be proven.

Authorities relied on a 1969 police report from a witness. Allred said for some unknown reason the information from Raymond Norman was never pursued until the case was re-opened.

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

But Rios is dead and so is his brother, a possible suspect, and Norman also died according to the county attorney. Allred said Norman and the Rios brothers socialized. Norman often allowed Richard Rios to use his car according to the 1969 police report.

The 1969 police report was enough for authorities to claim their 1969 cold case is solved.

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

In the 1960’s, the two families grew up in Ogden, attended local schools and knew of each other but were never friends.

“His name was well known in this community as a bully.” she said.

Authorities said Richard Rios had a history of assaults, DUI and thefts which eventually landed him in prison.

But prior to his murder, Leroy got into a fight with Rios and his brother at a New Years eve dance.

“My brother was fighting both of them and beat them both up,” the sister said. “He was doing it to protect us and also defending us.”

At the time, Leroy was a Golden Gloves boxer and preparing for a national tournament in Las Vegas.  Weeks before it was to start he was murdered.

Both Rios and his brother Tony were questioned about the murder but there was not enough evidence to bring charges.

Meanwhile, the Rios brothers were back on the streets and Sandra Ortiz remembered seeing them.  They approached her.

“They were laughing at me and I kept walking,” she said. “‘Hey Sandra, you know we got your brother’s body in the car. Do you want it?’ And they just laughed.”

The county attorney said they won’t bring charges against a dead man. So the family will never get a chance to see justice carried out.

Leroy’s murder still haunts his younger brother who was fourteen at the time. Arnold Ortiz recalled Leroy leaving that night.

“It was something that hung over my head,” the younger brother said. “Because what if I would have looked to see who it was, then went to the door. “It’s hard to live with the what-ifs.”

Sandra Ortiz said Rios was jealous of his achievements in boxing and his status in the community.  She claimed Rios couldn’t forgive Leroy after their fight on New Years.

Years later, she ran into Rios while riding a bus in Ogden. His legs were amputated from a medical condition he had, Ortiz said. But she refused to go near him on the bus.

“He yelled out ‘will you forgive me?’” she recalled.

She suspected what he was implying but refused to answer him.  

52-years have passed since her brother’s murder. She said therapy helped her realize she had to let go of the anger she carried with her.

“It wasn’t very easy but I knew in my heart it was something I had to do to find peace,” she said.  “Also I believe (I had to do this) to honor of my brother Leroy.”

Leroy Ortiz never made it to the Golden Gloves championships in 1969. In his place was the cousin of Richard Rios. Authorities and the Ortiz family wondered if that was also a motive for Leroy’s murder.

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