Man, 75, surrenders in 1962 murder case

Pete Ortiz ends five decade run from law

SAN ANTONIO – Pete Ortiz was weary of living in hiding when he decided to surrender.  

Ortiz was indicted in 1963 for his alleged involvement in the murder of Joe Ovalle, 26, which occurred in the driveway of Ovalle’s home two days before Christmas in 1962.

Ovalle was a witness in a drug case and his murder was suspected to be a hired hit.

Ortiz surrendered to 399th District Court Judge Frank Castro on Wednesday morning.

“Where have you been all these 55 years?” Castro asked Ortiz.

“I work all the time,” Ortiz replied. “I work in the fields picking cotton, I followed the migrants to Wisconsin.”

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Castro set bond for Ortiz at $50,000 and ordered that he remain under house arrest, wearing an ankle monitor. 

Ortiz’ attorney, John Kuntz, said that Ortiz, who is now 75, was tired of having the arrest warrant haunting him and was weary of living under an assumed name.

He said that Ortiz was riding with Frank Juarez, 36, the night of the murder, but did not participate. Juarez was convicted and sentenced to prison.

He has since been released on parole.

“Pete did nothing to aid, assist, abet or encourage this murder,” Kuntz said.

District Attorney Nicholas “Nico” La Hood said he is reviewing the case, but has made no decision on whether to prosecute Ortiz.

“We have a file,” La Hood said. “Obviously it is an old file -- it was in archives -- but there’s a file.”

The case presents a legal challenge for both La Hood and Kuntz.

“There’s a challenge that comes with this, La Hood said. “Witnesses, statements, investigations that were done back then versus now, so we’re in the process of evaluating all of that.”

Kuntz said that his hope is that the case will be dismissed.

For now, Ortiz is free on bond and his case is in the system, pending trial.

About the Author:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.