Mother of rape victim wants answers and a change in Oregon law - KPTV - FOX 12

Mother of rape victim wants answers and a change in Oregon law

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Jose Omar Ortiz, jail booking photo Jose Omar Ortiz, jail booking photo
WASHINGTON COUNTY, OR (KPTV) -

A Washington County mother wants answers after the man charged with kidnapping and raping her daughter is still awaiting trial more than a year after his arrest, and she says the case is an example of why Oregon law needs to change.

Jose Omar Ortiz has been in the Washington County Jail for more than a year, charged with raping two different women in April and May 2015.

The mother who spoke with FOX 12 wants to conceal her identity to protect her daughter. She said Ortiz was an acquaintance of her daughter who drove her to a remote location and held her there against her will while he repeatedly sexually assaulted her over the course of more than 10 hours.

A month later, police said Ortiz picked up a stranger he met on Craigslist and drove her to the same remote location to rape her.

At the time, deputies said Ortiz was linked to a third rape as well, but charges in that case were never filed.

“No mother wants to hear your child relive how they were begging for their life as they were being strangled and suffocated,” the mother said.

She said she and her daughter are frustrated with how slowly Ortiz’ court case is moving along.

“[My daughter] just asks that this case comes to resolution, because each time she gets a subpoena in the mail or the cancellation of another court date it just opens up that same event for her and it just brings back all that pain and fear,” she said.

A prosecutor on the case told FOX 12 the delays have come as a result of two motions filed by Ortiz’ defense saying he wasn’t fit to stand trial. That led to Ortiz being taken to the state hospital in Salem for two mental health evaluations. Each came back saying he was fit, but the defense contested it a third time before a judge ruled Ortiz can, in fact, stand trial.

His trial is now scheduled to begin Aug. 16th.

The mother said she’s also frustrated that Ortiz isn’t being charged with strangulation, even though she says he strangled both women into submission.

In Oregon, strangulation is only a felony in certain cases, under circumstances which are most common in domestic violence situations. Otherwise, it’s a misdemeanor.

Another prosecutor in the Washington County District Attorney's Office explained that the charges of first-degree rape that Ortiz is facing already indicate the use of force, and are serious crimes that carry significant mandatory minimum sentences on their own. Charging Ortiz with a separate misdemeanor for strangulation would do nothing in terms of his sentence.

Now, the mother of the victim is working with Louise Baushard, the founder of the Hillsboro nonprofit Voices Set Free, to change Oregon law.

“Without that felony charge, they walk,” Baushard said. “They might not even spend a night in jail.”

Baushard is working to pass a bill that would change Oregon law so that criminals who use strangulation as their weapon of choice are held just as accountable as someone with any other weapon.

It’s a gap in the criminal justice system Baushard says she sees most often in cases of domestic violence.

“The strongest indicator of anyone about to be killed in a domestic violence incident is when they’ve been strangled,” she added. “Yet we do not know how to investigate it, we do not know how to take photographs of it, we’re not even in a state that recognizes how close this is to murder.”

SB-789 was introduced in the Oregon Legislature in 2015, but never got a hearing. Baushard hopes it will in January.

“When you get into your car or you go anywhere with a person, if they pulled out a weapon you would know to flee,” the mother said. “You don’t see it coming when they stun you suddenly and then begin to strangle you.”

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