The first appearance of a man accused of a double murder turned emotional in a Vista courtroom Tuesday.
There was an outburst of shock by dozens of family members when the prosecutor said defendant Juan Carlos Ortega, 33, “confessed with qualifiers” to killing his estranged wife and her sister last week. The judge had to stop the proceedings several times because of the uncontrollable crying and eventually brought in extra deputies to keep order. Ortega’s mother and several other family members left the room in tears.
In the arraignment, prosecutors said Ortega was “lying in wait” before killing the two women.
Last Thursday morning around 4:14 a.m., Ana Gabriela Soto, 26, was found inside a burned-out SUV near Kauana Loa Drive and Country Club Drive.
The plates on the SUV led investigators to a home in the 500 block of 11th Avenue, where Veronica Soto Ortega, 30, Ortega’s wife, was found dead.
In court, the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Jodi Breton, said Ortega had “confessed with qualifiers.” A witness saw Ortega going back and forth between the home and the SUV on the night of the murders, and the prosecutor said Ortega confessed it was him.
Court records revealed that Ortega and his wife were going through a divorce. The couple had two daughters who were upstairs in bed when their mother’s body was found in their home. The girls were unharmed and were taken into protective custody.
“It's devastating. I cannot imagine being that family and finding out that both of your daughters, your sisters or your cousins, your granddaughters, were brutally murdered. I cannot imagine that,” Breton said Tuesday.
Ortega is facing life in prison, but he could face the death penalty for the murders.
Afterward, the father of Veronica and Ana Gabriela Soto said the women were hard workers and always happy. He also said he does not the support the death penalty and would rather leave Ortega's punishment up to God. Ortega's family did not talk to the media.
His preliminary hearing is scheduled for the end of October.