A Bellingham man must serve 7 years in prison for the violent rape of his ex-girlfriend at a Samish Way motel.
Eric Joel Ortiz, 33, asked his former fiancée for a ride to the hospital after he crashed his car in summer 2016, according to charging papers. Once she picked him up, however, Ortiz told her to take him to a motel so he could rest. So the pair drove to the Bay City Motor Inn at 116 N. Samish Way.
There, Ortiz became despondent about their breakup 1 ½ weeks earlier. He choked himself, threatened to take his own life, and told the woman not to call the police or he would commit suicide by cop, according to court records. Ortiz told the woman he wanted to have sex, and she said no. He put her in choke-hold and strangled her until blood vessels burst in her eyes and chest. He raped her.
Afterward she ran out to her car as Ortiz ran after her, according to her report. She called police right away. A medical exam revealed bruises, hemorrhaging in her throat from choking, injuries to her privates, and skin rubbed off of her neck.
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She told police Ortiz abused her before, but she was too afraid to report it.
Ortiz has a long, documented record of domestic violence. Court records show he got into an argument about trust with his wife at the time in November 2007. He demanded to see her phone and, when she refused, he bit her face. Later, Ortiz served 3 ½ years in prison for sending letters from jail to the same woman in August 2009, when they were trying to mend their marriage. In all, he has a dozen convictions for violating no-contact orders, and two prior convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence assault.
According to his own report, Ortiz has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, bipolar disorder, and an attention deficient disorder.
In the rape case Ortiz pleaded guilty to second-degree domestic violence assault, domestic violence harassment and third-degree domestic violence rape. He maintains that what happened in the motel room in 2016 was consensual.
“I know for a fact that I’m not a sex offender,” he told an investigator from the Department of Corrections.
Nonetheless, he will have to register as one when he’s released from prison.
According to court records, Ortiz wished to enter what’s called an Alford plea, where he would admit a jury would likely find him guilty, while asserting his innocence. (It’s still considered a conviction). However, his public defender missed a court hearing in March because of bad weather, and a defense attorney who substituted for her wasn’t aware of the Alford plea.
Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis denied a request to change the guilty plea at a hearing this week. Changing the plea would not affect the suggested sentence, and the judge approved the plea deal, sending Ortiz to prison for 7 years.
Ortiz married his third wife, a mother of two from Oregon, as he sat in jail earlier this year, according to the Department of Corrections report. He plans to move in with her once he gets out of prison.
The length of Ortiz' sentence was corrected May 5, 2017.