A Mitchell woman who was one of three suspects charged for her alleged role in the murder of a man at a downtown Mitchell apartment has reached a plea agreement with state prosecutors.
Yanitza Ortiz, 22, pleaded guilty to two drug charges -- possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone with intent to distribute -- on Tuesday during felony court proceedings at the Davison County Public Safety Center.
While Ortiz was initially charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of Adalberto Ferrer-Machado, who was fatally shot by two other alleged suspects on Jan. 10 inside his apartment, the felony charge would be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
According to an arrest affidavit, authorities uncovered 18 bags of methamphetamine in Ortiz’s residence on the west side of Mitchell, each containing 20 grams of the drug. Since her apartment, located at 200 W. Fourth St., was within 1,000 feet of a daycare, it’s considered a drug-free zone.
During Tuesday's hearing, South Dakota Deputy Attorney General Katie Mallery said evidence showed Ortiz has been selling methamphetamine in the Mitchell area.
“Additional scales and $600 was also found in her residence. She admitted to selling methamphetamine in Mitchell,” Mallery said.
For the two Class 4 felony charges she pleaded guilty to, Ortiz could face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Judge Chris Giles said Ortiz faces a mandatory minimum of six years in prison for the two drug charges. He ordered a pre-sentence report to be completed prior to handing down her sentence. Ortiz is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 8, 2022.
Ortiz became a suspect in the murder of Ferrer-Machado after investigators interrogated the two male suspects -- Jose Carlos Morales-Acevedo and Luis Javier Perez-Melendez -- who were charged with first- and second-degree murder in the Jan. 10 homicide. Morales-Acevedo, 27, and Perez-Melendez, 28, both of Huron, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ferrer-Machado and remain in custody at the Davison County jail.
The 38-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene when officers found Ferrer-Machado lying in the hallway of an apartment complex at 503 ½ N. Main St. with multiple gunshot wounds. The murder was not a random act, as both suspects knew the victim, according to the investigators’ reports.
Morales-Acevedo denied being present when the murder occurred, but he recanted his statement later on and admitted to “playing an active part in the homicide,” according to an arrest affidavit. Authorities used video surveillance footage and spotted Morales-Acevedo wearing bloody shoes while being interrogated as additional evidence to charge the suspects.
Morales-Acevedo is seeking to suppress evidence from his interrogation, citing he misunderstood his waiver of Miranda rights due to the claim the Spanish interpreter made errors in translating detectives. However, a Mitchell police officer recently testified that Morales-Acevedo held a conversation with him in English prior to being brought in for interrogation.
Both Morales-Acevedo and Perez-Melendez await a jury trial in the case.