Adoptive Son Pleads Not Guilty In Berkeley Mother's Killing

  • Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
  • Comments Comments (0)

The adoptive son of a Berkeley woman pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of murder in her late-December slaying.

Laercio de Jesus Ortega, 21, stood shackled, clad in a red jumpsuit as his attorney entered the plea at the Berkeley Courthouse.

After asserting his innocence, Laercio Ortega was denied bail by Judge Jennie Rhine, who said he was a "danger to the community."

Saying little during the proceedings, Laercio Ortega affirmed his plea with a quiet "yes."

Ortega will remain at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin until the next hearing, scheduled for March 20. At that time a schedule for the trial will likely be established and the decision to deny bail may be appealed.

Laercio Ortega's adoptive mother, Charlotte Ortega, 55, was found dead Dec. 30, floating in the Berkeley Marina. The prosecution alleges Laercio Ortega beat and stabbed her to death before dumping her body in the water.

Although the prosecution found Rhine's decision to deny bail

"appropriate," Laercio Ortega's attorney James McWilliams, a public defender, said it was unconstitutional.

McWilliams argued his client was entitled to bail, albeit a high one, because he is not charged with a capital offense. In addition, he said Laercio Ortega, who was born in Brazil, is not a flight risk because he lacks a passport and has family ties in the area.

McWilliams is considering an appeal to Judge Rhine's decision to deny his client bail.

Deputy Alameda County District Attorney Jason Sjoberg, the prosecutor for the case, disagreed, saying Laercio Ortega was in fact a danger to his family and a flight risk.

After being denied bail, McWilliams said his client was "depressed."

"He's very young and he is being locked in an adult facility," McWilliams said. "He wants to go home."

Despite the objection, the bail denial drew praise from the Berkeley Police Department.

"He's a murder suspect," said Berkeley police Lt. Cynthia Harris. "Keep him in custody."

Laercio Ortega was arrested Dec. 30, shortly after his adoptive mother was found dead.

Adriana Ortega, Laercio Ortega's sister, reportedly told police there was a history of conflict between her mother and brother.

In the days before the killing, Charlotte Ortega reportedly asked Adriana Ortega, "Do you think Lazarus is going to kill me?"

Laercio Ortega was allegedly found driving Charlotte Ortega's van after her disappearance. Police said they found blood in the vehicle. Results from forensic tests on the van have not yet been released.

Twice before, in January, Laercio Ortega's plea was delayed because the defense was still researching the case.

So far, the defense has found no problems with the police investigation, McWilliams said.


Comments (0) »

Comment Policy
The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regards to both the readers and writers of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. Click here to read the full comment policy.
White space
Left Arrow
Image Student regent resigns after sex crime allegations
Jesse Cheng officially announced his resignation from his positio...Read More»
Image Pet shop may occupy planned Goodwill
After failed negotiations with the landlord and resistance from the busines...Read More»
Image Campus graduate takes new first steps
UC Berkeley's graduation day this year was symbolic for graduate Austin Whi...Read More»
Image Regents rescind part of approval
The ongoing legal battle surrounding revisions to the building plans for th...Read More»
Image UC spared additional cuts in budget revision
While the University of California escaped further funding reductions M...Read More»
Image UC Board of Regents wary of unreliable state funds
SAN FRANCISCO - Following the release of Gov. Jerry Brown's revis...Read More»
Right Arrow

Job Postings

White Space