Juan J. Ortiz
Offense: Murder 1st
Sentenced to Death: 09/26/2003
Date of Offense: 07/06/2001
Deborah Clay entered into a romantic relationship
with Ortiz in 2001. Deborah was forty-one years old in July ofthat year.
In March 2001, Ortiz moved into Deborah's home. At that time, Deborah's
fifteen-year-old daughter, Ashley, was living with Deborah.
Ortiz stayed with Deborah and Ashley from March 19,
2001 to May29, 2001. During that time, Ortiz was under home confinement
by the Delaware Department of Corrections. His monitoring device was
located in the back bedroom of Deborah's home. Ortiz left for a few
months and returned to Deborah's home on June 26, 2001. On July 4,
Ashley heard Deborah tell Ortiz he had to move out of her home by that
The next evening, July 5, Ashley tried to open the
door to her mother's bedroom, but the door was locked. Ortiz was in that
bedroom.When he unlocked the door, Ashley noticed Deborah's waterbed
wasdeflated. Ortiz was upset and crying. He told Ashley that he tried to
shoot himself but missed and shot the waterbed. Ortiz said that he was
tohave Deborah take him to a mental institution.
Later that night, around 11:00 p.m., when Ashley
returned home, Ortiz appeared normal. Ashley then called her mother to
ask permission to go out with her friends. Deborah did not want Ashley
to go out because Deborah feared being alone with Ortiz at her home.
Deborah also requested Ashley to tell Ortiz that "he still had to be out
Deborah's son, Brock Prichett, who was twenty-seven
years old, owned a 6mm rifle and a 12-guage bolt-action shotgun. Deborah
and Ortiz stored those guns for Brock at Robert Cox's house. Brock
requested possession of his guns a few days before July 6. On July 5,
2001, Ortiz obtained the guns from Cox around 7:00 a.m. When Brock asked
Ortiz about his guns later that same evening, however, Ortiz told Brock
that he was not able to get in touch with Cox.
The next day, July 6, 2001, Ashley found Ortiz at
home around noon. He told Ashley that he and her mother had not spoken
the night before and that "all hell was going to break loose when [Deborah]
got home " That same afternoon, Deborah had called her friend, Amy Rust,
around 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. from Mike Ratledge's house. Deborah called Rust
later at 3:15p.m. from her own home and told Rust she was about to get
into the shower. She requested that Rust pick her up because she was
late for work.
Tonya Russell, a neighbor of Deborah's, testified
that on the afternoon of July 6, she saw Ortiz leave Deborah's residence,
get into his truck, and go back inside the home. According to Russell,
Ortiz was inside the residence for approximately three minutes and then
left very quickly. Russell noticed smoke coming from Deborah's home
about fifteen to twenty minutes after Ortiz left. Russell knocked on
Deborah's bedroom window and the back door. After hearing no response,
Tonya called 911 at 3:32 p.m. When Amy Rust arrived at Deborah's home,
it was on fire. Firefighters and fire trucks were already on the scene.
As the firefighters were extinguishing the fire, they
discovered the body of a female in the bathroom. The body appeared to
have been decapitated. The female body was Deborah Clay's. An autopsy
revealed that Deborah had been shot in the lower right abdomen and also
had sustained a fatal shot to the right side of her head above her ear.
The Delaware State Police also responded to the scene
of the fire at Deborah's home. On top of the washing machine, in an
alcove adjacent tothe bathroom, the police discovered three pillows that
were duct-taped together. The pillows had a hole in them that
corresponded to a hole found in the paneling between the hall and the
shower. Inside the pillows, police found half of a Sabot slug and also
located two shotgun wads in the bathroom. The police found a hole in the
shower stall that was about 22inches from the top of the tub. It was
estimated that Deborah was standing about 25 inches away from the wall
when she was shot while standing in the shower.
The Chief Deputy Fire Marshall concluded that the
fire at Deborah's home had been started intentionally by an open flame.
He also determined that two fires had been set: one in the center
bedroom and one in the rear bedroom. The police found a burned 12-gauge
shotgun in one of the bedrooms.
The police located Ortiz near Millsboro and took him
into custody without incident. Among other things, police found an
orange Philadelphia Flyers cigarette lighter. Ortiz told the police that
the weapon he used to shoot Deborah was in her trailer. Ortiz stated
that he was angry with Deborah and fired the shotgun at her from behind
the wall while she was in the shower. Ortiz claimed that he thought the
gun was "on safe." He then stated that he went to the bathroom, saw
Deborah holding her side, and dropped the gun which went off when he
dropped it. He ran from the house and traveled to the home near
Millsboro, where he was eventually arrested.