Chaos broke out in a Pima County courtroom Friday when a Tucson man attacked one of his attorneys after the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Chet Jack Wadsworth Maley, 28, was arrested Nov. 21, 2016, several hours after the stabbing death of his girlfriend, 29-year-old Roxanne Ortiz.
Witnesses saw the couple arguing outside a nearby Circle K at about 5:20 a.m., before a man fitting Maley’s description was caught on surveillance video carrying Ortiz across the Chariot Pizza parking lot, throwing her head-first over a wall and stabbing her multiple times. At the end of the video, the attacker jumped over the wall, stabbing Ortiz one more time before fleeing the scene.
Maley was located at his home by police several hours later and taken into custody.
Maley, who did not testify in his own defense, stood quietly while the clerk read the verdicts in the case. The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for less than an hour Friday before returning its verdict.
Moments after the jury left the courtroom, Maley turned and punched his attorney Craig Kessler in the side of the head. Within seconds, deputies wrestled Maley to the ground, weapons drawn, as additional deputies flooded into the courtroom. Deputies shouted at Maley to stay down as he struggled to be subdued.
When court resumed about 15 minutes later, Maley was no longer in the courtroom. Paramedics arrived shortly after to tend to Kessler, who had a large scrape on the left side of his head.
Judge Deborah Bernini granted defense attorney Katie Voll’s motion to allow the Pima County Public Defender’s Office to withdraw as Maley’s counsel, appointing a contracted attorney to represent him in his May 13 sentencing and assault case stemming from the courtroom attack.
Before the jury reached a verdict, Deputy Pima County Attorney Michelle Chamblee recounted Ortiz’s final moments during closing arguments.
“Roxanne’s dying breath was ‘help me, I’m dying,’” Chamblee said. “She said it repeatedly as she laid there on the grass bleeding from her neck.”
Ortiz’s autopsy revealed stab wounds to her neck, stomach and side.
A witness at the scene identified Ortiz’s passenger as a man matching Maley’s description and said he got out of the car, yelling, “Hey” at Ortiz before she left Circle K.
Another eyewitness saw the altercation between Ortiz and her attacker behind Chariot Pizza, calling out to ask the man what he was doing. The man told the witness, “Mind your own business, she’s my girlfriend,” before dragging Ortiz towards the front of the pizza parlor.
Ortiz called out to the witness for help, saying, “He’s going to kill me,” Chamblee reminded the jury.
The defense argued that a witness said the attacker was shorter than Maley; that the attacker in the surveillance video was wearing a white long-sleeve button-down shirt that police never found; and pointed to a lack of DNA evidence.
“There’s no explanation for how none of Roxanne Ortiz’s blood got on Chet Maley,” Voll said. “The person who did this would have had blood and DNA on them.”
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt