Tip leads to arrest in Kansas ‘Five of Hearts’ homicide

GARDEN CITY, Kan. -- Investigators say they've made an arrest in the 2019 homicide of Ernie...
GARDEN CITY, Kan. -- Investigators say they've made an arrest in the 2019 homicide of Ernie Ortiz. The Kansas Department of Corrections says the tip came from someone with access to one of the department's Cold Case Cards decks. Ortiz's homicide was featured on the "Five of Hearts."(Kansas Department of Corrections)
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 5:10 PM CDT
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GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - Four years after a homicide shocked a Kansas community, investigators believe they’ve solved a cold case.

Last week, the U.S. Marshals Service worked with police in Garden City, Kan. to arrest a suspect in the homicide of 69-year-old Ernie Oritz. Someone shot and killed Ortiz in 2019, outside of the Garden City restaurant he and his family owned. Investigators originally made an arrest, but those charges were later dismissed.

Samantha Jo Smith, 32, is charged with multiple crimes related to Ortiz’ homicide. Smith was arrested in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week.

Ortiz’s homicide is known as the “Five of Hearts” case to the Kansas Department of Corrections, or KDOC. It’s because Ortiz’s case is featured on the “Five of Hearts” in the KDOC’s deck of playing cards.

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The deck features 52 unsolved homicides. It cards are made available to inmates in prison and community organizations. Each card lists information about a crime, the reward available, and who to contact with information in the case.

Since the KDOC started the deck of card program, it says it’s received a total of 14 credible tips. While it may not seem like many in a year, the KDOC says all of the tips are for cases that had no leads left to investigate.

The Kansas Department of Corrections originally ordered 10,000 decks. Those decks have been distributed to victim families, law enforcement agencies. state prisons and county jails across the state. The KDOC has since ordered 5,000 more decks.

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The department says it is considering creating a second deck and is collecting suggestions and recommendations for cases, if it decides to move forward on the option.