A woman whose husband has been missing since last month after crossing into San Diego at the U.S.-Mexico border made a tearful, heartfelt plea for his safe return Tuesday.
In Spanish, between tears, Denise Renteria begged anyone who might know anything about her husband’s whereabouts to please come forward and contact police.
“We’re asking for your help from the bottom of our hearts,” she said, crying. “We’re a family that has always been together. I need him, as a husband, as the father of my child. Please help me.”
Renteria’s husband, Jose Alberto Ortigoza, 26, was last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border checkpoint at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in south San Diego on Jan. 24 just before 3 p.m.
On Tuesday, San Diego Police Department Lt. Kevin Mayer said Ortigoza, a Mexican national, crossed the border on foot the day he went missing but may have gotten into a 2008 or later model GMC Acadia Crossover or similar type of vehicle once he crossed into San Diego.
Lt. Mayer said Ortigoza had crossed into the U.S. to conduct business on behalf of his employer – something he did on a regular basis. His boss dropped him off at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, and that was the last time anyone saw or heard from Ortigoza to date, Lt. Mayer said.
The lieutenant said Ortigoza has had no contact with his family, friends or employer since he vanished and hasn’t used his cell phone.
Lt. Mayer said police are “exploring all possibilities” regarding Ortigoza’s disappearance and haven’t ruled anything out yet, including the possibility of foul play.
“This is very out of character for him, to be missing like this. He frequently comes back and forth across the border for business,” said Lt. Mayer. “It is a concern. We’re trying to locate him and are asking for the public’s help.”
Accompanied by San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Adriana Uribe, Renteria said she was extremely distraught over her husband’s disappearance. She addressed anyone who may be holding her husband captive with this message:
“Have a heart. Remember he has a family and we want to have him with us. Let him go,” she sobbed.
Uribe, who is also with San Diego County Crime Stoppers, said Ortigoza has worked for his employer, Especies y Granos de Baja California, for more than four years and often crossed the border for business, always without incident.
On the day Ortigoza vanished, Uribe said Ortigoza called his wife, told her he was crossing into the U.S. and said would see her later that day.
“There was no indication that day that anything was amiss,” said Uribe.
Now, nearly three weeks into his disappearance, Lt. Mayer said the reward for information leading to Ortigoza has increased from $1,000 to $5,000.
Police describe Ortigoza as a Hispanic, 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds. He has black hair, brown eyes and also goes by the name “Alberto.”
Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact the SDPD Homicide Unit’s Adult Missing Persons section at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.