N.Y. man charged with attempted murder after trying to bury neighbor alive

Harold Ortiz is accused of hitting his neighbor over the head with a shovel and then burying him alive under several feet debris in the basement of 1330 Union St. (WTEN Photo)
Harold Ortiz is accused of hitting his neighbor over the head with a shovel and then burying him alive under several feet debris in the basement of 1330 Union St. (WTEN Photo)

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Authorities say a loophole is how a man newly out of prison was able to live in a Schenectady apartment without supervision.

Harold Ortiz is accused of hitting his neighbor over the head with a shovel and then burying him alive under several feet debris in the basement of 1330 Union St. He’s been charged with Attempted Murder and Unlawful Imprisonment.

But now, many are wondering why the 44-year old was not under supervision since he was recently released from prison.

Authorities said it appears to be a loophole. At the time of his sentencing, the state did not have a law for mandatory post-release supervision. In addition, Ortiz served his maximum time for his crime, so he was able to walk out of prison without any supervision.

According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, or DOCCS, Ortiz spent the last 17 years in prison. He was only released about two months ago, and authorities said he moved into his Union Street apartment building two weeks ago.

In 1998, he was convicted of Attempted Murder. A source close to the investigation said Ortiz spent at least part of that time in a mental health facility.

DOCCS would not go on camera but issued the following statement:

“When Ortiz committed his crime, New York State law did not have a mandatory post release supervision sentence therefore no post release supervision was ordered by the judge at sentencing, and Ortiz was not under Community Supervision when released July 10, 2015.”

DOCCS confirmed the law went into effect in August 1998 – a month after Ortiz committed the crime. They said they couldn’t hold him any longer as he’d served the maximum sentence. Their standard practice is to release prisoners with a two-week supply of their prescription medication. However, in this case, no one was watching to ensure he took it.

The office of mental health was also likely involved. They offer more mental health services to ex-cons, but because of HIPAA laws, they couldn’t comment on Ortiz’s case specifically.

In a statement, they said:

“All inmates who have received Office of Mental Health (OMH) prison-based services within three years of their discharge from prison, are screened for any symptoms of mental illness prior to their release… This planning includes, at minimum, enrollment in Medicaid, follow-up appointments with mental health services and supports matched to their level of need.”

A grand jury is reviewing the case, and it has been moved to county court.

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