DMX muralist honors Bronx teen burned to death in stairwell one year ago

Bronx
Winston Ortiz

Winston Ortiz and a mural of the teen being painted (Left – Family Handout, Right: Joan Tamarez)

THE BRONX — The artist who created murals honoring rapper DMX and murdered teen Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz paid tribute to another slain teenager Thursday, remembering Winston Ortiz, 18, on the one-year anniversary of his brutal killing in a Bronx stairwell.

“I really didn’t know the story,” said Efran Andaluz, who is called Andaluz the Artist.  “It didn’t get all the social media that it probably deserved.”

Andaluz started work on Ortiz’ 8-by-10 foot mural on the Fine Fare Supermarket before sunrise.  It’s located on Ogden Avenue near West 166 Street.

Exactly one year ago, on Aug. 12, 2020, Ortiz had been summoned to a building on Woodycrest Avenue.  His parents said their son was feeling badly about a 15-year-old girl from their local church who had stopped talking to him a couple of days before.  They called it “puppy love.”

Police said the girl’s older brother, Adones Betances, stabbed Ortiz multiple times on the fifth-floor stairwell and then set him on fire.

Ortiz died at Harlem Hospital with burns over 90 percent of his body.

“This person who murdered my son, with no remorse, who really murdered him twice, was not thinking about his future,” the slain teen’s father said as he looked at the mural Thursday.  

The oldest of three boys, Ortiz had told his parents he wanted to be an engineer; his mother and father would send their sons to summer programs at Hostos Community College. His family, Dominican immigrants with a fierce devotion to God, described the teen as quiet, “with such a good heart.  He was so humble.”

They share Christian beliefs with Andaluz the Artist, who was including a Bible verse on the mural:2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

During an emotional interview with PIX11 in June, Ortiz’ mother, Joan Tamarez, revealed that her son was praying when a female police officer responded to the stairwell where Winston was dying.

 “She said that he said, ‘Lord, forgive all my sins,’” Tamarez said.

The still-grieving mother seemed almost numb Thursday as she watched the artist at work on Ogden Avenue, where Andaluz used spray paint to create the mural.

“I went to the cemetery first,” Tamarez told PIX11. “You can imagine I was devastated. I can’t believe he’s not here.”

The teen was often in the area where the mural was painted.

“He used to go to school around here,” his mom said. This is an area with a lot of cars that pass by and the bus. My son will be remembered.”

Some of the details behind their oldest son’s murder are still a mystery to his parents.

“Things like this happen when people don’t have God in their life,” his dad said.

The teen’s mother, who works with special needs students, also served as a Bible study teacher for preteens at the family’s local church.  

 She said that’s where her son, then 17, met a 14-year-old girl that he liked. The mother was concerned about the relationship but said her son was only talking to the girl.

Two days before the teen was killed, his brother, Wilmer, recalled the teen came home upset.

“He was definitely heartbroken,” Wilmer Ortiz remembered.  “He went to my mom and started crying.”

Winston’s mother remembered that day.

“He said, ‘Mom, she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore,’” Tamarez recalled, referring to Winston’s young friend.

The teen had already endured so much: before the pandemic started, he experienced headaches in 2019 and was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

A year later, when the city was in lockdown, the family had received good news from a doctor on Zoom, when the specialist told them a one-time radiation treatment had successfully treated the aneurysm.

“We were so happy, we were jumping,” the mother remembered.  “We were going to celebrate his life, and then, this happened.”

On Aug. 12, 2020, the teen stayed home when his parents ran some errands with his two brothers in downtown Manhattan and New Jersey.  

Tamarez recalled her son was feeling better a few days after the breakup, doing exercises in the living room and laughing.

On the way back from New Jersey, the family received a cellphone call that the teen was in Jacobi Hospital. He was transferred to Harlem Hospital with burns over most of his body and three stab wounds.

Tamarez said her husband didn’t want her to enter the hospital room.

“He was still alive; he was in a coma,” the mother told PIX11. “My husband went to see him, and my husband didn’t want me to see him.”

That moment was heartbreaking for her.

“I felt like I left him alone,” the weeping mom said.  “I was afraid, too, to see him like that.  And then my husband said it was the best choice. He said, ‘That was not our son in there. That was not our son anymore.'”

The family moved to a new apartment in the months following Ortiz’ death, and their middle son, Wilmer, started college. Their youngest, Wilkin — who is 12 — just finished sixth grade.

On Thursday evening, Winston’s parents were waiting for the mother Guzman-Feliz to stop by and see the mural.

Guzman-Feliz’ case made international headlines in 2018, after the 15-year-old boy was chased by a mob of Trinitarios gang members and fatally stabbed outside a bodega in a case of mistaken identity.

Andaluz the Artist recently created a mural for Junior.

Now, he’s trying to comfort Ortiz’ parents with his art.

“It’s for the community and, most importantly, for the family.  I can’t imagine the pain they’re going through,” he said.

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