Mother says son, an ERAU student, was killed and police have not arrested suspect
A mother brought her frustration and sorrow to the doorsteps of the Daytona Beach Police Department Monday as she demanded justice for the death of her son, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student who died of a gunshot wound in 2020.
Alexander Bello-Ortiz's death was ruled a suicide. But his mother, Maria Lourdes Ortiz, filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year in federal court in Orlando alleging that Bello-Ortiz's roommate, John Burlein, shot and killed him.
Burlein has denied responsibility in his attorney's response to the lawsuit. His attorneys have not responded to an email from The News-Journal seeking comment.
While the Daytona Beach Police Department has reopened the case, Lourdes Ortiz told reporters Monday that she feared nothing would be done.
“The Daytona Police Department has allowed the people responsible for my son’s death to escape their responsibility,” Lourdes Ortiz said just outside police headquarters as a couple of detectives watched nearby.
Her attorney, John Phillips of Jacksonville, said his office is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible.
Phillips said the family has not received any information from the police department regarding the case.
As the mother spoke, friends and family stood behind her holding signs and a large banner that read, “Justice for Alex Bello.” Another sign said, “We won’t be silent.” Some of the signs had a picture of a smiling Bello-Ortiz in his cadet uniform.
Besides frustration with the police department, Lourdes Ortiz expressed sorrow at the loss of her son, who was her only child.
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“I won’t be able to see (his) accomplishment,” Lourdes Ortiz said. “I won’t be able to see him grow up. I won’t be able to see even my grandkids. I won’t be able to see what he could have been, because his life was taken. And, unfortunately, the Daytona Police Department is endorsing this behavior by not holding the people responsible accountable.”
She said that Bello-Ortiz was an Eagle Scout and a United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet.
When asked for Police Chief Jakari Young’s response to the mother’s comments, police spokeswoman Carrie McCallister wrote that the case was reopened last year when police “were advised of new evidence.”
“At this time, it is considered an active death investigation,” McCallister wrote.
McCallister did not respond to a follow-up email again asking for Young's comments regarding the mother’s statements.
The lawsuit against John Burlein
Lourdes Ortiz and her husband, Bello-Ortiz's stepfather, Harold Dolph, filed the lawsuit against Burlein; his father, Joseph Burlein; Gregory Lynn Trax; Brenden Tyler Rubio; Henry Lax; and Robert Kramer. The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
John Burlein and Kramer were Ortiz's roommates at a home at 941 Vernon St. in Daytona Beach. Ortiz’s parents had purchased the home as an investment for themselves, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that John Burlein and his friend, Lax, were caught on a house security camera conspiring to break into Bello-Ortiz's room and steal a rifle Bello-Ortiz had been keeping for an acquaintance.
On Sept. 6, 2020, around 11:43 a.m., roommate Kramer went out for a jog and John Burlein stayed home. Within minutes, Bello-Ortiz and Burlein began to argue, escalating to a physical confrontation, the lawsuit states.
“Alex pleaded to John to get off him,” according to the lawsuit.
“John taunted Alex with a gun,” and then at 11:56 a.m., John Burlein shot Bello-Ortiz in the head, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that audio recordings from Ring cameras recorded an exchange between John Burlein and another person, believed to be his father, on speaker phone.
"On the phone, moments after (the shooting) occurred, John admitted to his father that he shot Alex,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Joseph Burlein “directed John to reposition the gun and tell an accompanying story to make Alex’s shooting look like a suicide.”
“Did you (expletive) kill him?” one person asked.
The lawsuit states that the Burleins conspired to mislead investigators and make it appear that Bello-Ortiz had shot himself.
John Burlein called 911 more than five minutes after shooting Bello-Ortiz, claiming that Bello-Ortiz had collapsed, the lawsuit states.
During the eight-minute 911 call, John Burlein did not mention that he heard a gunshot, that Bello-Ortiz had been shot or that a firearm was involved, according to the lawsuit.
Daytona Beach Police prepared a report based on information from Burlein which was not corroborated, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states that police did not cordon off the crime scene or separate potential suspects or swab potential suspects hands for gunshot residue, the lawsuit states.
And while the police report alleged that Bello-Ortiz was on drugs at the time of the shooting, toxicology results refuted that allegation.
The lawsuit states that a day before the shooting, “John told his friends, Brenden Rubio and Robert Kramer, that (John) wanted to shoot Alex."
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: ERAU student's death was homicide, mother says in wrongful death suit