Man convicted for killing his aunt sentenced to life in prison

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Following a trial last year, Craig Smith was convicted of murdering his aunt, Josephina Ortega.

Prosecutors say in 2017 Smith was deep in drug debt when he broke into his aunt’s home, ziptied her hands, and covered her head with plastic bags. It was part of a scheme to steal nearly $100,000 from her.

“I was supposed to make more memories with her, spend more time with her, we all were,” said Alana Rodriguez, Josephina’s grandchild, during the sentencing hearing. “Instead, we have to deal with the years of trauma and heartache because you wrongly decided her life was dispensable.”

Josephina’s family minced no words, as they asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

“At my mother’s funeral, you hugged me and said ‘I’m so sorry about Aunt Jo,’ knowing all along that you had killed her,” said Elisa Ortega, Josephina’s daughter. “You are a disgusting person. Society will be better if you never walk the streets again.”

Smith spoke briefly at the hearing, maintaining his innocence and vowing to appeal his conviction.

“I’m not guilty of killing my aunt, no matter what the other side says and what they think,” Smith said.

Smith was also sentenced for the 2017 murder of Terry Williams. Williams disappeared following a break-in at a home, and his body was later found burned on the West Mesa. Smith pleaded no contest in 2021 to charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping in that case.

Ultimately, Judge Brett Lovelace sentence Smith to life in prison, plus 60 years for the two killings.