Jose DeJesus Ortiz, 26, who eluded authorities for six years in connection with a March 17, 2002, killing, was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday by a Pima County Superior Court jury.
Ortiz’s defense attorney, Harley Kurlander, said his client was trying to help his friend, Jeffrey Roberts, when he saw Roberts grappling with Greg Arbuckle, 23, in Roberts’ home.
Arbuckle was shot six times with a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun, prosecutor Jonathan Mosher said.
The shooting was reported in local media as an attempted drug ripoff and robbery of Arbuckle.
Roberts testified last week that Arbuckle was selling methamphetamine out of the house where Roberts lived with his mother and sister. Arbuckle and Roberts’ sister shared a bedroom.
Arbuckle kept a safe and a handgun in the bedroom, according to testimony in the case.
Roberts testified against Ortiz in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. He said he and Ortiz and other friends talked about “jacking” Arbuckle – robbing him of money from the safe.
But Roberts said they decided not to do that.
They hung out over several hours, drinking alcoholic beverages laced with “a handful” of unspecified pills. They also smoked marijuana from a water pipe, he said.
Arbuckle had methamphetamine in his system, an autopsy showed.
Roberts testified he walked to his East Side house with a gun in his waistband after partying with friends nearby and he began to argue with Arbuckle over a “lack of respect.”
The verbal confrontation became physical, he said.
Both men had pointed guns at each other at one moment.
As they fought, Ortiz entered the home, picked up a handgun he saw on the floor and fired six times. Four bullets struck Arbuckle in the back.
Roberts’ sister, a witness to the shooting, also testified that Ortiz shot Arbuckle.
Ortiz and Roberts were indicted in March 2002.
Ortiz fled and was on the Pima County Attorney’s Most Wanted list for six years until he was picked up in Phoenix last year under a false name on an unrelated matter. He was linked to the Arbuckle killing by fingerprints, according to court documents.
Ortiz faces a sentence of up to life in prison. He will be sentenced in June.
Roberts pleaded guilty to manslaughter and faces seven to 21 years in prison. He will be sentenced May 15 on the manslaughter charge.