Pasco murder trial opens with Casey Anthony attorney on defense side

Published May 13 2014
Updated May 13 2014

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man accused of murdering his wife's lover went on trial Tuesday, represented by the law firm that defended Casey Anthony.

Michael Ortaliz, 61, of Port Richey had recently marked 38 years of marriage to his wife Karen. But she had met a new man named John Holman, who was a companion to people with disabilities. The Ortalizes' older son, Michael Jr., has Down syndrome.

Karen moved out, staying at Holman's apartment and with her parents at the Brentwood Estates mobile home park in Hudson.

On Jan. 24, 2012, Ortaliz called in sick from his job at NAPA Auto Parts and waited near the home for her to arrive, with a 9mm Ruger. According to prosecutor Chris Sprowls, he waited so long a woman asked him if he was interested in buying a house.

When Holman, 61, and Karen Ortaliz pulled up in a white SUV, Ortaliz crept up to the car, opened the driver's side door, and opened fire. Holman was still buckled to the seat.

"I shot the son of a bitch," Ortaliz said, according to Sprowls. He told his wife, 'I should kill you too.'"

Afterward, he took the magazine out of his gun and set it on the ground, and waited for authorities to arrive.

Ortaliz is represented by the Baez Law Firm, which won a high-profile acquittal in 2011 for Anthony, the Orlando woman who was accused of murdering her daughter Caylee.

Defense attorney Jan Kubicz argued that the shooting was a crime of passion.

"When the threads holding together the very fabric of your self identity unravel all at once, the results are electric," Kubicz said. "They release a thunderstorm of emotion that washes you away in a blind fury."

Baez sat in the first row behind Ortaliz, sometimes whispering to his attorneys during the proceedings.

A neighbor testified how he was sitting on his porch and saw Ortaliz sneak up and open fire. The deputy who handcuffed Ortaliz testified that Ortaliz told him he had done the shooting.

In a crime scene video shown in court, a flag waved in the wind in front of the home where the SUV was parked. Holman was slumped over in the seat, with bullet wounds to his face, torso and hands.

Ortaliz only went to the house, Kubicz said, because he needed to talk to Karen, and her cell phone was shut off.

"His future intent was to move on," he said. "He had no plan to kill anyone."

Kubicz said Ortaliz was hit by a "lightning bolt" when he saw his wife with Holman, and he lost control.

"When deputies came he surrendered peacefully and he was cooperative," Kubicz said. "The evidence is going to show that this killing is not murder."