Man facing charges in death of toddler son now accused in 2021 homicide

·3 min read

FARMINGTON — The Farmington man accused of child abuse in his son's drowning death is now accused of shooting and killing a woman inside a residence northwest of Aztec.

A witness told investigators that Jaden Ortega told him he killed Julie Harris in late July with a gun that Ortega is later seen posing with in a Snapchat photo, a weapon he later tried to sell for $400.

Ortega, 21, was charged on Jan. 7 with a first-degree felony count of murder and a third-degree felony count of possession of a firearm by a felon, according to court records.

Ortega is accused of killing Harris in the early hours of July 30 at a residence on County Road 3086, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the investigation, issued a news release on Jan. 7 announcing the charges against Ortega.

The defendant has been held since Aug. 31 at the San Juan County Detention Center and remained incarcerated at the jail on Jan. 8.

Details of the homicide investigation

The Sheriff’s Office was dispatched around 3:44 a.m. on July 30 to a residence on County Road 3086 to investigate a reported homicide.

Harris had a gunshot wound to her head. She was found on the floor by a woman inside the residence who then called 911. She told investigators that she had heard a loud bang before she found Harris.

Harris died at the scene.

Bullet holes were found in the front door of the residence. Five 9mm shell casings were found outside on or near the front porch.

The Sheriff’s Office news release provides a summary of the investigation by detectives into Harris’ death.

“During their investigation, detectives interviewed multiple people and executed numerous search warrants. After conducting a thorough investigation, Jaden Ortega has been identified as the suspect in the homicide.”

It was a man who told investigators that Ortega personally told him that he is responsible for Harris' murder.

Ortega allegedly told the man he knocked on Harris’ front door then “emptied his clip,” firing the gun into the residence, according to court documents.

The man also stated Jaden then fled from the scene in his mother’s vehicle, damaging the passenger car while fleeing the scene.

Ortega's mother told investigators her son took her vehicle on the night of July 29 without permission, and it was heavily damaged when it was returned to her.

One of the Snapchat videos collected as evidence show Ortega posing with several firearms including the green 9mm handgun believed to have been used in Harris’ death, according to court documents.

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab examined the shell casings collected in the homicide case with the shell casings recovered from another criminal case Ortega is charged with.

The lab results showed a positive “lead” that rounds were fired from the same weapon in both cases, according to court documents.

A Snapchat photo posted on Aug. 20 allegedly shows Ortega trying to sell the green handgun for $400, about a month after he allegedly killed Harris.

No court dates have been set in Jaden’s homicide case and no attorney was listed in the case, according to court records.

Ortega’s two other pending criminal cases

Ortega has two pending criminal cases in state district court.

He is accused of child abuse in the Feb. 4 drowning death of his toddler son Santo Ortega, who was found dead in a bathtub of a Farmington apartment.

The defendant allegedly left the child unattended in the bathroom and fell asleep in another room in the residence.

Jaden is also accused of attempted murder and other charges stemming from a July 20 drive-by shooting during which a woman was shot in one of her ankles.

Jaden’s co-defendant, Samuel Stevens, told investigators that Jaden ordered him to shoot at a vehicle because the male driver “snitched” on a relative of Jaden’s to law enforcement, according to The Daily Times archives.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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This article originally appeared on Farmington Daily Times: Man facing charges in death of toddler now accused of killing woman