PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A hostage negotiator took the stand today as the trial for the man accused of kidnapping his young daughter and taking her to Altoona, causing a lengthy standoff got underway.
According to police, Tex Ortiz was on house arrest when he took the girl a week before Christmas. He allegedly removed his ankle bracelet and left the area.
When Ortiz finally was returned to Allegheny County for a preliminary hearing in January following a massive search, he said he wasn’t aware of a court order signed just three days before his young daughter disappeared.
The court order awarded interim custody of then-2-year-old Jaleeyah Ortiz to her grandmother.
He had custody up till then, and said he never got that order.
“Never got it,” Ortiz said in January. “Trying to protect my daughter. That’s all I was doing was trying to protect my daughter.”
But there has been testimony that Ortiz told one policeman he didn’t care about the court order, and that he deceived investigators, leading them to believe he was in New York when in fact he never left the state.
It all ended with a SWAT team surrounding a home in Altoona where Ortiz had taken the girl.
The hostage negotiator testified Tuesday that his conversation with Ortiz led him to believe the suspect was not confused about custody.
“He was scared,” testified Altoona Detective Sgt. Ashley Day. “I assured him he wouldn’t be hurt if he turned over his daughter and gave up. He asked for another 10 minutes so he could have some time with his daughter.
“He knew about the custody issue. He knew he was wrong. That’s why he was worried he was going away for a long time,” Day testified.
On Wednesday, the jury is expected to hear Ortiz’s phone conversations from jail once he was returned to Pittsburgh.