New twist in case of murdered Fresno sex offender

Someone stabbed Lawrence Ballesteros almost 60 times and then dumped the body on a busy street near an Army Reserve center.
April 15, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new twist Tuesday in the murder trial against two people accused of killing a Fresno man shortly after finding out he was a registered sex offender.

"Mr. Ballesteros was killed by someone who hated him," said defense attorney Mark Siegel. "He was killed by someone who wanted to put him on display."

Someone stabbed 60-year-old Lawrence Ballesteros almost 60 times and then dumped the body on a busy street near an Army Reserve center.

Patricia Perez and Bertha Ortega were landlords to Ballesteros. Perez is the one accused of killing him, but her defense attorney pointed out Ortega is the one who wasn't his friend, the one with a teenage daughter, and because of that, the one with a motive after finding out his secret.

When U.S. Marshals went looking for Lawrence Ballesteros to make sure the registered sex offender was where he was supposed to be, they came to a house belonging to Bertha Ortega. Ortega mistook Ballesteros' sex offender status to mean he was a pedophile. A year and a half later, her girlfriend, Patricia Perez, is on trial for Ballesteros' murder. And Perez's attorney says -- since she had a teenage daughter and Perez didn't -- Ortega is a more likely suspect.

"Bertha Ortega herself had more of a motive - not to kill Mr. Ballesteros - but to want him out of that detached garage," said Siegel.

Ortega's daughter gave police what may be the strongest piece of evidence linking Perez and David Barrera to the murder. The teen said she saw the two suspects in the driveway that night in Sept. 2012, near Barrera's pickup truck. In court, her story changed slightly. She identified Barrera, but stopped short of saying Perez was also in the driveway.

"We all saw her gesture towards Patricia Perez and then she caught herself and stopped and said 'I don't remember who the other person was,'" said prosecutor Jeff Dupras.

About ten minutes after the driveway scene, surveillance video shows a pickup truck pulling up to the spot where the body was discovered. Ballesteros' blood was later found in Barrera's truck. But Barrera's attorney says that doesn't prove Barrera participated in the murder.

"There's not a single, solitary shred of evidence that shows a knife in his hand or a ligature in his hand," said Gerald Schwab.

Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday afternoon, so the jury will begin deliberations Wednesday morning.

Perez and Barrera face life in prison if they're convicted of murder.


Load Comments