OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Leroy Ortiz was preparing for the 1969 Golden Gloves championships in Las Vegas.
He was a favorite in the lightweight division. But the 19-year-old Ogden teen never made it to Las Vegas. He vanished in early March of 1969.
“We were very concerned,“ said his younger sister Sandra Ortiz. “It was his last year of high school.“
Ortiz who was a senior at Ogden High School was set to graduate later that spring.
“There was no calls,“ recalled his sister. “There was no contact with him. We didn’t know where he was at. one of his friends knew where he was at.“
She said her brother’s disappearance 50 years ago was unusual. Ortiz said Leroy was someone who came home every night and if he didn’t he’d let his mother know.
For about 20 days, there was no sign of the 19-year-old. Then there was a grisly discovery at a small diversion dam near Slaterville. It was the body of Leroy Ortiz.
The family’s private investigator has talked with witnesses and authorities.
“He was shot in the back with a single round and he died instantly,“ said Jason Jensen. “He was shot as he was trying to escape because he was bound to a chair.“
He said Ortiz was forcibly taken to Ogden’s so-called “hobo jungle.“ In 1969, it was a hangout for the homeless.
“Once he broke free he tried to run away and was shot a single time in the back,“ Jensen said.
His sister said Ortiz left his home that night with a friend. She said her now deceased mother saw two others join them.
Jensen said other witnesses claimed they ended up at the hobo jungle where he was murdered.
Back in 1969, Ortiz was dating Rita Serrano. She once posted a photo of the two of them at a wedding in Ogden.
“He was a tough guy, but he was a real good person,“ said Serrano. “My mother loved him. My sisters loved him and we all miss him. We all miss him.“
Serrano also has been waiting for answers. She said she once heard about a confrontation Ortiz had prior to his death.
“He had beat one of those brothers up pretty badly about two weeks before he went missing,“ recalled Serrano. “But they couldn’t prove it was them.“
Jensen said his investigation uncovered similar details about a possible motive.
“It’s unclear,“ Jensen said. “I would think it’s retaliation. I think that somebody thought he was in the way and wanted him gone.“
Ironically, a brother of the two young men allegedly beaten by Ortiz was also a boxer. In 1969, the family said that brother replaced Ortiz after he disappeared and was murdered.
Many were questioned after Ortiz’s body was found, but the evidence wasn’t there for an arrest.
Jensen said there are witnesses to the murder who need to contact him or the Utah Cold Case Coalition.
“We want any witnesses to that event to step forward,“ Jensen said. “The only one who could be prosecuted is the shooter.“
He said any witnesses to the murder would not be considered accomplices but witnesses. And he also claimed the statute of limitations has expired if authorities wanted to charge them with lesser crimes. Jensen also said the coalition will provide any witnesses with an attorney to assure they are immune from any prosecution.
”We have also increased the reward to $10,000 for information that leads to a conviction,” Jensen said.
Thursday, Sandy Ortiz and her sister and brother-in-law visited the Ogden cemetery where Leroy Ortiz was buried.
His headstone bears his name along with an image of Jesus Christ. There is also a pair of boxing gloves etched on the headstone. Written below the boxing gloves are the words “Golden Gloves Champion.“
“I remember it vividly every year for the past 50 years,“ said Sandy Ortiz. “To me, it’s like yesterday. It was a traumatizing time of my life.“