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Suspect in 20-year-old murder case booked into jail

Published: Thursday, July 29 2010 2:18 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A man who is charged with murdering a Utah County woman more than 20 years ago has been extradited back to Utah and was booked Thursday into the Salt Lake County Jail.

In June, Jose Ortiz-Garcia, 55, was charged in 3rd District Court with murder, aggravated robbery and three counts of aggravated sexual assault in the Nov. 10, 1989, death of Lela Rockwell.

Rockwell's discarded nude body was found by a passer-by in a planter box under the old North Temple viaduct near 400 West. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation. Rockwell, 62, suffered broken ribs, head trauma and had multiple bite marks on her body from her head to her stomach, according to the charges.

Investigators determined Rockwell was also raped multiple times.

Well-preserved evidence and advances in DNA technology proved to be the break in the case. The Utah State Crime Lab and Sorenson Forensics helped investigators put the suspect's DNA into a national database and Ortiz-Garcia came up as a match. Ortiz-Garcia was serving time in a federal prison in South Carolina on an unrelated charge.

Rockwell was a homeless person whose last known address was in Fairfield. Police had lost contact with her family over the years, but re-established a connection with them after the charges were announced last month.

— Pat Reavy

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