A Tucson man who told authorities he raped three women and killed two of them because Satan told him to was sentenced to two natural life sentences, plus an extra 20 years Friday.
Apollo Keith Ortega, 24, had originally been facing death in the slayings of Margie Ortiz and Norma Jean Conner, but he agreed last month to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of release.
Ortega's formal sentencing was held Friday to give an opportunity for his surviving victim to address the court, along with relatives of the deceased victims.
Ortiz and Conner were both described as selfless women who would do anything to help anybody and who are both greatly missed.
"The pain, rage, sadness and confusion we've endured the last year has been enough to last a lifetime," said Ofelia Flores, Ortiz's sister.
Keyshia Conner, Conner's niece, said her religious beliefs prevent her from hating Ortega, but she hopes God has mercy on his soul.
When Ortega's surviving victim could not bring herself to speak, a companion, Angela Francisco, told Judge Kenneth Lee that the woman remains scared and full of pain.
"She may not be lying in the ground, but he's killed her," Francisco said.
All three women were attacked within a 19-day time frame.
On July 10, 2008, a man heard a woman screaming in the 900 block of South Sixth Avenue, according to court records. When he went to check on the woman, he saw a naked man hitting the woman in the head with a cement block. The naked man ran away when the witness shouted at him, and the woman was rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull, broken nose, three stab wounds to the back and various cuts to her face and scalp.
The woman told police she was raped at knifepoint by the man and choked with a belt.
Six days later, two men found Ortiz, 57, dead near the underpass at East Alvernon Way and South Palo Verde Road, court documents state. She had been stabbed 30 times, portions of her internal organs had been removed. She had been raped and strangled.
Three months later, the Tucson Police Department's crime lab discovered that the belt used to strangle the first victim matched DNA found at the Ortiz murder scene, and both samples came back to Ortega. Ortega had provided a DNA sample in an unrelated matter.
When police interviewed Ortega, he admitted attacking the two women and Conner.
Conner, 52, had been found dead on July 29, 2008, but an autopsy failed to reveal she'd been murdered.
Ortega claimed he smothered Conner during consensual sex, court records indicate.
Ortega "attributed the offenses to his drug and alcohol use in addition to the voice in his head, which he identified as Satan," according to court documents.
Prosecutors believed Ortega met four statutory requirements for the death penalty.
They alleged Ortega committed more than one homicide, and the crimes were committed in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner. In addition, they said Ortega was awaiting trial on unrelated charges at the time of the crimes and that he now has convictions for serious offenses.
The plea agreement was negotiated, in part, to spare the victims' relatives the trauma of a trial, Deputy Pima County Attorney Susan Eazer said.
Court documents indicate Ortega was sentenced to three years' probation on drug-related charges two weeks before his arrest in the homicide cases.
Ortega told a pre-sentence report writer that he suffered abuse at the hands of a stepfather and was suspended from school a great deal because he was hyperactive and had behavioral issues. He quit school in the ninth grade.
Ortega said his longest term of employment was two months; he lived with a variety of friends and had never been in a long-term relationship. In addition, Ortega said he was a daily beer drinker who began drinking at the age of 9, and he also used marijuana and cocaine regularly. He also admitted to having used methamphetamine and heroin in the past.
"His drug and alcohol use caused him to black out, stagger, pass out, attempt suicide and become confused more than 10 times" in the past six months, the pre-sentence report writer wrote.
Ortega told those in the courtroom Friday he was sorry, and he hopes God forgives him for his sins.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or email@example.com