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Affidavit: Double homicide in Smith County stemmed from argument about money

Updated: Jul. 7, 2020 at 4:39 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An affidavit has revealed what led up to a fatal shooting that left two men dead in Smith County.

Ramiro Ortiz, 34, is charged with first-degree murder. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Justino Rosales-Betancourt, 32, and Jose Manuel Betancourt, 35. Saul Morado, 20, also suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

“Ramiro Ortiz turned himself in, on Friday, Jul 3, to the Tyler Police Department,” said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. “He’s charged with murder and also has an immigration detainer, because he illegally crossed the border; but that will not be enforced until his trial for murder.”

According to an affidavit, on June 29, Smith County deputies responded to a call of shots fired at 5359 Highway 110 North in Tyler. Deputies arrived to find two Hispanic males deceased.

During the course of the investigation, detectives spoke with a Hispanic female who lived at the home. The woman informed detectives that around 11 p.m., there was a knock on her door and her husband, identified as Ramiro Ortiz, answered the door. The woman said she believed the man at the door was Rodrigo Rivera, 23, due to the way Ortiz answered the door, but she could not be sure as she did not see who was at the door. The woman said Ortiz then came back to the bedroom and told her that he needed to go collect money owed to him. The affidavit said the woman told detectives Ortiz was a cocaine distributor.

The affidavit said the woman told Ortiz not to leave, but he refused and left for approximately 15 minutes before returning. Ortiz then began helping the woman feed their baby before saying he had to go outside. As the woman continued feeding the baby, gunshots were heard outside.

The affidavit said that after the gunshots, Ortiz came back inside and was bleeding from his face. He told the woman he was fine and that it was just a graze. The affidavit said Ortiz asked her, “Would you rather them shoot me first?” He then told her to pack up their kids and travel to her brother’s home. As she went outside, she saw two deceased Hispanic males, but did not recognize who they were.

Later, EMS received a call about an unknown problem from 1339 Dobbs Terrace in Tyler. When EMS arrived, they saw a red truck with its windows shot out. A large amount of blood was seen in the truck with a blood trail leading from the truck to the residence.

Smith County detectives later interviewed a witness. The witness said he had been with Saul Morado, Justino Betancourt, and Jose Betancourt at a restaurant on East Erwin St. in Tyler on June 28. He said that late in the evening, two trucks, a red F150 and a white F150 pulled up and a “skinny” and “chubby” Hispanic male entered the restaurant and confronted Justino Betancourt saying he owed them money. Justino Betancourt said he did not know them and a verbal argument began and got to the point where the restaurant manager told the unidentified men to leave the establishment. Both trucks left, but the red F150 came back shortly afterward and the “skinny” man exited the vehicle with a handgun and yelled for Justino Betancourt to come out. The manager once again told him to leave and after five minutes, he left.

The witness said that he along with Justino Betancourt, Jose Betancourt, and Saul Morado left the restaurant about 15 minutes later. Saul Morado said he recognized one of the men as “Ramiro” from doing concrete work with him and said he knew where he lived. Following that, they drove to a home on Dobbs Terrace and Justino Betancourt entered and retrieved firearms and came out saying they are going to “go find these guys.”

“There’s a second person involved, that I know he fired shots, I don’t know if any of his shots hit the victims,” said Smith. “Rodrigo Rivera is the nephew of Ortiz and we have a warrant on him, outstanding, for deadly conduct.”

After Justino Betancourt retrieved the firearms, the four drove to Ortiz’s residence. The witness said they arrived at the residence on Highway 110 North and he saw the red F150 from the restaurant and the “skinny” man inside the vehicle. All the occupants of the vehicle got out and Justino Betancourt confronted the skinny man and stated they could fight like men or both have guns. The witness than said Justino Betancourt punched the man in the face and after he fell to the ground, the skinny man retrieved a handgun and began shooting at Justino Betancourt. Others began shooting as well.

“We do know that several of them are gang members, so the assumption can only be that it has something to do with what they’re involved with, illegally, as a gang,” said Smith.

The witness said he observed the “chubby” man exit the home with a rifle and the man began shooting. He also said he saw the skinny man shoot Justino Betancourt in the head. The witness said he heard Saul Morado say, “I’ve been shot, lets go.” The witness said that he and Morado then left the location.

“There was one stray bullet that went all the way across Highway 110, through a house where a baby was sleeping,” said Smith. “Fortunately, it was high enough it didn’t hit any person.”

Ramiro Ortiz remains in the Smith County jail on a $1.5 million bond. A second person, identified as Rodrigo Rivera, is wanted on a charge of Deadly Conduct, after the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said a round fired from his weapon struck a home directly across the street from the scene at 5359 Highway 110 North. The sheriff’s office said Rivera should be considered armed and dangerous.

“We have no idea where he is,” said Smith about Rivera. “Hopefully, he’ll turn himself in, but we are actively looking for him.”

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