Bronx mom demands first-degree murder focus after son stabbed, burned to death in stairwell

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Winston Ortiz rally

The parents of Winston Ortiz, who was 18 when he was viciously stabbed and set on fire in a Bronx stairwell last August, rallied outside the Hall of Justice Tuesday, calling for a first-degree murder prosecution (PIX11/Mary Murphy)

THE BRONX — The parents of Winston Ortiz, who was 18 when he was viciously stabbed and set on fire in a Bronx stairwell last August, rallied outside the Hall of Justice Tuesday, calling for a first-degree murder prosecution.

The suspect in the case, Adones Betances, 22, is being held on Rikers Island on first- and second-degree murder charges, along with a manslaughter count.

“It was premeditated,” the teen’s mother, Joan Tamarez, told PIX11 News outside court. “He knew before he went there what he was going to do to my son.”

“He wasn’t satisfied just stabbing him,” the mother added, “He killed him twice.”

During a heart-wrenching interview last month, Winston’s mother revealed what a female police officer who responded to the stairwell had told her.

“She said to me, ‘Do you know you’re a very good mother? Your son was praying,” the mom had recalled. “She said that he said, ‘Lord, forgive all my sins.'”

Winston Ortiz died a short time later at Harlem Hospital from multiple stab wounds and burns over 90% of his body.

He was killed a couple of days after a 15-year-old girl he knew from church told him she didn’t want to talk with him anymore.

Her older brother is the murder suspect, and the Ortiz family still wonders how their son was lured to the fifth floor stairwell on Woodycrest Avenue on Aug. 12, 2020.

“They were having a little ‘puppy love,’” said Rev. Oswald Denis, a family supporter who’s pastor of the Rehoboth Christian Church.” And that little puppy love turned to murder.”

Even more tragic, Winston Ortiz had been recovering from a brain aneurysm he was diagnosed with, a year before the pandemic.  He had responded well to radiation treatment.

The parents want Bronx prosecutors to push for a first-degree murder conviction once the case gets to a jury.  

So far, the pre-trial hearings have been virtual, and Betances was recently assigned a new lawyer.

The Bronx District Attorney’s Office pointed out it’s not unusual for suspects in serious crimes to be indicted on both first- and second-degree murder charges.

At the 2019 ‘Junior’ trial,  five members of the Trinitarios gang were convicted of both first- and second-degree murder in the bodega stabbing of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz. One of the convicted men was sentenced to life without parole, while most of the others received 25 years to life.

According to New York State’s penal code, if there’s an element of a homicide relating to torture, kidnapping or arson, first-degree murder is a relevant charge.  

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