Created: 06/21/2014 5:03 PM
By: Kristen Garcia, KOB.com
A Santa Fe woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday in a case which she is accused of helping set fire to the body of 75-year-old George Ortiz.
Prosecutors say Jeannie Sandoval, 32, had been living with Ortiz in his apartment when he was killed October 29, 2012. Ortiz had been married to Sandoval’s late grandmother and helped raise her.
According to documents released by Santa Fe Police is 2012, Ortiz was having an argument with Sandoval and her boyfriend Anthony Yepez. At one point, the document reads, Ortiz struck Sandoval in the throat and Yepez in the chest. Yepez allegedly attacked and choked Ortiz to death. The couple then poured cooking oil on his body and set it on fire.
Sandoval originally was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Under the terms of her plea deal, the murder charge was downgraded to second degree and the other charges against her were dropped. The maximum amount of time Sandoval could spend in jail under the terms of her agreement is nine years.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Assistant District Attorney Susan Stinson said she was willing to accept the plea because the state might have faced difficulty convicting Sandoval on a murder charge due to an inconclusive report by the Office of the Medical Investigator. The report did not determine whether Ortiz was dead when he was doused in oil and set on fire, or whether he only was unconscious and died later after being set on fire.
If Ortiz was already dead, defense attorney Tom Clark reasoned, his client only could have been charged with tampering with evidence, but if Ortiz was still alive, Sandoval potentially could have been convicted of murder.
Sandoval remains incarcerated at the Santa Fe County jail, where she’s been since she was arrested Oct. 30, 2012. Her bond has been set at $1 million cash.