Detective Steve Haney was named detective of the year by the Cold Case Coalition, and it was Haney’s work that helped solve the case and name Ortiz’ killer.
The Justice Files first reported about the solved murder last year.
“We got our answers,” said Sandy Ortiz, Leroy’s sister. “But I never gave up hope. I never gave up hope. I prayed for many years.”
In 1969, Ortiz was a golden gloves boxer when he suddenly vanished. Three weeks later, his body was found in the river. At the time, possible suspect Richard Rios Jr. was questioned but there was not enough evidence to make an arrest.
Three years ago, the Cold Case Coalition, along with the Ortiz family, met with a detective to re-open the case.
Last year, the Weber County attorney confirmed Rios was the killer.
“We are fairly confident that Richard Rios in fact murdered Ortiz,” Chris Allred said. “There was apparently, some bad blood between the two. Whether that was sufficient motive, whether there was other things. I don’t know.”
Cold case detective Haney said he was unaware of the Ortiz murder until it was brought to his attention.
Three years ago, he began sifting through case files, re-interviewing witnesses who were still alive, but he said the key was interviewing former Ogden police captain Marlin Balls. Haney said the former homicide detective told him of things not found in police reports.
“There had been a friend that Richard Rios had confessed to prior to Leroy’s body even being found,” said Haney, “and that led to the closure of this case.”
Allred said no charges would be filed since Rios Jr. died in the 1990’s.
Last week, Haney was honored by the Cold Case Coalition at the weekly Weber County Commission meeting.
“The Cold Case Coalition bestows upon him Steven Haney, detective, this title of investigator of the year,” said Jason Jensen with the coalition.
Some members of Ortiz’ family had travelled to be present for the presentation. They met with Haney afterwards.
“To be able to finish that case and give closure to that family, it sure was a highlight of my life and in my career,” Haney said. “I was shocked and humbled by the Cold Case Coalition giving me that recognition. It’s quite an honor.”