Trial under way in death of Fruita man by stabbing

Julio Ortiz

Jury selection started Monday at the Mesa County Justice Center in the trial of one of two brothers accused in the stabbing death of a Fruita man last spring.

Julio Ortiz, 30, is charged with first-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault, among other counts, in connection with a dispute at a Grand Junction bar that ended up at a Clifton mobile home park where 31-year-old Abel Roper was found stabbed to death.

Mesa County Jury Commissioner Rose Anne Kelley said some 80 summonses for jury duty went out for Ortiz’s trial.

Julio Ortiz and his brother, Jose, 31, are accused in an incident that allegedly started as an argument over a woman at Cruisers, 715 Horizon Drive, which spilled into a high-speed chase with two cars on Interstate 70 in the pre-dawn hours of March 1, 2012, and ended at Pioneer Village mobile home park, 3195 F Road.

Roper suffered 13 stab wounds during a fight.

Roper’s body was found with his right arm extended into the open driver-side door of his still-running pickup when Mesa County sheriff’s deputies were called just before 7 a.m. Investigators learned through dispatch records that police were called just before 3 a.m. March 1 to St. Mary’s Hospital, where Jose Ortiz told police he and a friend fought “white supremacists” outside Cruisers. Jose Ortiz, however, said he didn’t want to pursue charges.

The bar owner told police he kicked Jose Ortiz and Roper out after they fought over a girl.

During a preliminary hearing in August, a sheriff’s investigator testified they obtained a photo from Julio Ortiz’s cellphone, showing his brother smiling for the camera and showing off a bloodied hand from the fight.

Also on Julio’s phone, investigators found a text message to his brother, saying, “Don’t give them your phone ... erase your text messages,” according to testimony,

Jose Ortiz, who is being held at the Mesa County Jail on $1 million bond, is slated to return to court April 11.

Julio Ortiz’s trial may last through March 15.


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