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2011-07-10 / Front Page

Ortega given life in prison for murder

By Gloria Bigger-Cantu

Bobby Ortega Bobby Ortega A Kleberg County jury issued a life sentence to Bobby Ortega Thursday for the 2010 stabbing death of Matthew Garcia.

105th District Court Judge Angelica Hernandez sentenced Ortega to life in prison for the murder and two 20-year sentences, to run concurrently, for two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Each aggravated assault charge also received a $10,000 fine.

Ortega, 19, showed no emotion after the sentences were handed down. He was found guilty of murder and two counts of aggravated assault June 23 in connection with the fatal stabbing of Garcia, age 20. Garcia was stabbed numerous times inside of Club Inc. at Rax Sports Bar on Aug. 8, 2010, and was taken by a private vehicle to Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg where he was later pronounced dead. Garcia’s brother, Jason Garcia 22, and Ernesto Garza, 30, were also injured in the stabbing incident.

After the sentence was read, Matthew Garcia’s oldest sister, Monica Garcia, presented a statement on behalf of her family.

“Bobby, I forgive you and my family forgives you because there is a God,” she said looking directly at the defendant. “We have gone through so much since August.”

Monica said she was 13- years-old when her brother was born, and she helped take care of him.

“You took out your knife like a coward,” Monica told Ortega.

“The day they killed him, they killed my family, too,” she said, tearfully.

After Matthew’s death, the family learned his girlfriend was pregnant, Monica said.

“Matt’s daughter will grow up without a father, and Bobby’s daughter will grow up without a father,” Monica said.

Lee Ann Torres and Eric Flores, attorneys from Corpus Christi, defended Ortega. The prosecutors were Eric Guerrero and Wes Mau, from the Texas Attorney General’s Office in Austin.

District Attorney John Hubert recused himself from the case .

The prosecutors insisted Ortega deserved a life sentence for crimes he had committed. Guerreo revealed graphic photos of stab wounds to Matthew Garcia’s back, neck wounds of a second victim, and stab wounds on the third victim.

Defense attorneys portrayed Ortega as an individual who had been abandoned by his mother, which led him to a life of drugs.

Kingsville Police Department Detective John Greif testified he arrested Ortega on June 10, 2008, for not having a driver’s license and evading arrest, and Ortega was incarcerated at the Kleberg County jail.

Task Force agent and former KPD patrolman Arnold Salinas testified he approached Ortega after Ortega had struck a fire hydrant in the early morning of April 2007. He said Ortega smelled of alcohol, did not have permission to take the car and was in violation of curfew. Ortega was 16-years-old at that time and released to the custody of his father. Salinas also recalled a photo he found in the car picturing a group of members of a gang known as the Texas Syndicate. Salinas said the Texas Syndicate is widespread and involved with drugs in this state.

“Narcotics and gangs go hand-in-hand,” Salinas said. He said “TS” members also have tattoos with a big T, and some members have tattoos with longhorns.

Prosecutor Guerrero then showed a picture of a tattoo Ortega has that matched that description. Defense attorney Flores asked Salinas if he had seen Ortega in the photo with the TS members and Salinas replied that he had not seen him in the photo.

Ortega’s father, Ernesto Ortega, testified for the defense late Wednesday afternoon. Ernesto Ortega testified his son’s mother left when he was 11-years-old. Ernesto went to prison for three years on charges of distributing marijuana, and different aunts raised his son during this time. Ernesto Ortega also revealed his son dropped out of school in the sixth grade.

In closing statements, both sides addressed the jury. Torres said she could not make excuses for what happened on Aug. 8. 2010.

“He’s still 19-years-old and acts and talks like a kid,” she said. “His mother walked away; his father testified he went to live with aunts while he was in prison; he dropped out of school when he was in the sixth grade.”

She said the jury could consider a sentence of two to 20 years with no probation. Other sentences ranged from five to 99 years.

Guerrero countered that Ortega took an unprovoked bar fight and escalated it to murder. Guerrero said Ortega had no regard for the law or for consequences, and was associating with known gang members. Guerrero also claimed Ortega had threatened his girlfriend while in jail.

“He deserves life in prison for taking Matt’s life,” he said. “The escalation of criminal behavior stops now.”

At the end of the punishment phase, Matt Garcia’s family declined to comment to the media. However, Ernesto Ortega shared his thoughts. He said his son has a three-year-old daughter and had not wanted to go to the night club the night of the attack.

“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people,” Ernesto Ortega said.

“I believe he is innocent, and, in my opinion, they did not have the evidence,” he said. “It is hard for me to believe that he could do that to two or three people who were over six feet tall and weighed close to 300 pounds.”

Ernesto Ortega also said he was surprised at the sentence.

“He was never convicted of a felony and was surprised they gave him life,” he said. Ernesto Ortega said he still has hope that the case will be appealed.

Two more people have been indicted in connection with the stabbing death of Matthew Garcia. A Kleberg County grand jury indicted Sophia Campos, 26, and Daniel David Gonzales, 27, in connection with the murder of Garcia and aggravated assault of Jason Garcia, and Ernesto Garza of Bishop in October 2010. Both Campos and Gonzalez are in the Kleberg County jail awaiting trial.

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