A Connecticut man was convicted Wednesday of breaking into his ex-girlfriend's apartment in Woodbury, N.J. and brutally beating the woman in front of her three small children.
Prosecutors said 33-year-old Jose Ortiz, of New Britain, Conn., had been threatening and stalking the victim for over a year before he burglarized her Evergreen Avenue apartment March 5 through 6, 2012.
Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Michelle Jeneby told a jury the burglary wasn't for the purpose of stealing property, but to commit another crime.
"The crime is that he hurt her," Jeneby said. "He caused bodily injury."
Ortiz once lived with the victim in Connecticut. But, the woman testified, the relationship "became a living hell" when Ortiz became violent. She said he would throw things in front of her children and once attempted to smother her with a pillow.
The woman told jurors she fled with her children more than 200 miles away, to South Jersey, in an attempt to escape Ortiz. Prosecutors said Ortiz was not the children's father.
Ortiz eventually followed the victim, forced his way into her home and punched and kicked her. The woman testified that Ortiz also cut off her hair while saying, "you know what I could have done with these scissors?"
Jurors were shown photos police took of the woman's bruised and swollen face, as well as of scratches the scissors left on her neck.
Prosecutors said that, after the assault, the victim covered her bruises with makeup and quietly left the apartment as Ortiz slept.
Because the woman was afraid and did not have friends in this part of the country, she did not immediately report the incident. She finally confided in a counselor at Gloucester County College, where she was studying for a GED, and filed charges.
Ortiz's lawyer claimed his client was wrongfully accused, and that Ortiz's relationship with the victim did not end when she moved.
Prosecutors said the attorney produced pictures showing his client and the woman together at a Philadelphia restaurant just a month before the burglary. He further contended Ortiz had "free access" to the woman's apartment.
When the defense attorney asked the woman about the photos in which she appeared with Ortiz, she replied that she didn't have a choice, according to prosecutors. "I feared him," she said. "I couldn't be against him."
Ortiz was convicted of second-degree burglary, third-degree threatening to kill and fourth-degree stalking. He was jailed after a judge increased his bail from $5,000 to $50,000.
Ortiz was also ordered to have no contact with the victim, should he be released from prison before his June 20 sentencing.