A Valley Man Cleared of Murder Charges

June 11, 2008 7:44:38 PM PDT
Armando Ortiz is still in jail and won't be leaving for several months. A jury convicted him of killing a woman and her unborn child. But a judge intervened when new evidence surfaced. On Wednesday, Ortiz grinned when the district attorney dropped the case. His family hugged and cried outside the courtroom. They waited 6 years for the moment. Jennifer Rodriguez is Ortiz's sister and says, "I mean you just believe ... You believe in your family. You gather your facts and gather everything. That's basically what we had to do over the past 6 years. We're just very, very happy right now."

19-year-old Manar Jaber was pregnant when she died in 2002. She was murdered at her family's store in Reedley. Ortiz was convicted for the crime and sentenced to life in prison. But late last year, a judge threw out the verdict calling the late Ernest Kinney, an ineffective defense attorney. Ortiz's new defense team provided evidence showing the defendant was in Fresno during the murders. Defense Attorney Mark Broughton said, "Unfortunately their story didn't get heard. It didn't get told back when this case went to trial."

The victim's family still owns the store in Reedley. Action News spoke with the victim's father. He didn't want to go on camera, but he seemed very upset that his daughter's murder remains unsolved.

Prosecutor Jon Skiles said they're still investigating, and Ortiz could once again face murder charges, "Based on the alibi witness that we spoke to, I don't believe there's enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, he committed this crime. That could change in the future and we will pursue it."

But Ortiz's family believes those charges will never come and he will go home soon. Rodriguez said, "First thing we're going to do is hopefully we'll be able reunite him with his son. That's my brother's biggest, biggest want right now. He wants to be reunited with son."

Ortiz remains in custody because he was also convicted of an assault charge, but his attorneys say they plan to ask a judge to overturn that verdict as well.


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